Methods for the First Draft: The Freewrite

Two yellowed pages of a book are filled with hand-written notes in black ink. Image by Gianni Crestani from Pixabay

Despite the importance of warming up before a writing session, we can’t always make it happen. Perhaps we were too preoccupied with another problem to focus during the warm up period. Or maybe a meeting ran over and we had to rush between tasks, skipping the warm up altogether.

In any case, if you sit down to write and your mind is blank, try the freewrite method.

Freewriting is a stream of consciousness method that can help direct your mind to the task at hand. Here’s how it works:

  1. Sit down with an open word document.

  2. Start typing anything that comes to mind.

  3. Continue typing, and remind yourself what your writing task is.

  4. Keep typing everything that goes through your mind.

Eventually this mental conversation will transition entirely to the writing task at hand. It might look pretty messy, and later you’ll need to delete the extraneous text. If successful, however, you’ve added words to your draft, and that is what’s important.

In practice, it might look something like this:

    _Ugh, ok, it’s 7:30 in the morning and I’m tired but I really need to finish this writing blog. I think I’m supposed to be writing about the freewriting method, which is a method that I advocate for a lot. There’s something helpful about being able to type without worrying about what goes on the page. Anyway, so how it works is that you just sit down and start typing, and typing, and typing to see what comes out. Eventually, you can get your brain warmed up and focused on the writing task at hand._

Granted, freewriting about the freewriting method is a bit… unusual, but hopefully you’ve gotten the point.

I think I’ve recommended the freewriting method to nearly everyone who has told me that they need to write something, but they don’t know what to write. The beautiful part about freewriting is that it truely, does not matter what goes on the page, especially in the beginning. And even after you’ve warmed up to the topic, you can continue to write in a stream of consciousness.

Freewriting gives you the freedom to write whatever you want about your topic, in whatever order or phrasing makes sense to you.

I can almost guarantee that if you’ve done your literature review and are at the point to generate a first draft, the freewriting method can get at least 70 to 80% of your content on the page. Again, yes, you’ll need to clean it up, maybe reorganize, rephrase, and refine to fit the flow of the outline. But the essential information will be there for you to revise, which was the initial goal.

To recap:

Freewriting is a warm-up method that can also be applied to the drafting process.


The introduction and full list of methods for writing the first draft.

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Ada K. Hagan
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I am a microbiologist with a passion for making science accessible. I hope to use my background in communications and higher education to help make scientific concepts more easily understood and make the academy more inclusive to future scientists from all backgrounds.