Freewriting: the cure for writer’s block

academics freewriting writer's block writing

Writing an essay or term paper can often feel like an uphill battle. We have all been victims, time to time, of the dreaded “writer’s block.” It can be frustrating and overwhelming when you sit down to write but you just don’t know where to start. But fear not! In this blog post, I will describe a helpful technique for overcoming writer’s block: freewriting. 

What is freewriting?

Freewriting – sometimes called automatic writing – is a technique that involves writing continuously for a given amount of time, without worrying about grammar, punctuation, or structure. The goal is to write freely and uncensored, without stopping to edit or revise. The only rule of freewriting is to just keep writing! The idea is to let your thoughts flow onto the page without overthinking them.

How does freewriting help with writer's block?

In my experiences with academic writing––as a tutor, teacher, and scholar myself––I have found that freewriting is the best strategy for overcoming writer’s block. It can help you generate new ideas, break through mental barriers, and unlock your creativity. When you're stuck, freewriting can provide a jumpstart to your writing process.

How to Freewrite

Set a timer.

For newcomers to the technique of freewriting, I find that five-to-seven minute sessions are a comfortable place to start. You’ll quickly find, however, that the time flies when you’re freewriting. Soon, you can work your way up to ten-fifteen minute freewrites. More experienced writers may eventually freewrite for twenty to thirty minutes. The goal is to write continuously for the entire duration of the timer, without stopping to edit or revise.

Write with abandon.

Write whatever comes to mind, without worrying about grammar, punctuation, or structure. Let your thoughts flow onto the page without overthinking them. Do not stop to edit or revise. If you are writing with a pencil, do not erase. Do not cross out. Use your stream of consciousness to generate material. Keep writing until the timer goes off. 

Review your writing.

Once the timer goes off, review what you've written. You may find that some of the ideas you generated during freewriting can be used in your writing project.

Tips for successful freewriting:

1. Find a quiet space

Freewriting requires concentration and focus. Find a quiet, ideally uncluttered, space where you won't be disturbed. Libraries are great for freewriting sessions!

2. Write by hand

I find writing by hand to be essential to a successful freewrite. The ease of the backspace button is too tempting. Besides, other tabs and notifications can be distracting while trying to write. The physical, embodied act of writing by hand can also spur deeper engagement with your creativity and thoughts. Most of us type faster than we write by hand – writing by hand slows us down ever-so-slightly, allowing us to be more intentional in a freewriting session, yet still fast-paced. Many students tell me that this type of deep engagement causes revelations in their thought process! 

3. Keep your pen moving

It's important to keep your pen moving during the freewriting process, even if you don't know what to write. If you get stuck, just write "I don't know what to write" repeatedly until another idea comes to mind.

4. Don't judge your writing

Remember, the goal of freewriting is to generate ideas, not to produce polished writing. Don't judge your writing during the freewriting process. You can always revise and edit later. This is just step one! 

Overall, freewriting can help you let go of your inner critic and unleash your creativity.

When you write without worrying about structure or grammar, you free your mind and generate new ideas. By removing the pressure to immediately produce a polished piece of writing, freewriting serves as a great starting point for generating and clarifying ideas in the early stages of the writing process. I encourage you to try out freewriting the next time you get stuck on a writing assignment to see for yourself how it helps the ideas flow!


academics study skills MCAT medical school admissions SAT expository writing college admissions English MD/PhD admissions GMAT LSAT GRE writing strategy chemistry physics math biology ACT graduate admissions language learning law school admissions test anxiety interview prep MBA admissions academic advice premed homework help personal statements AP exams creative writing MD career advice study schedules summer activities Common Application history test prep philosophy computer science secondary applications organic chemistry economics supplements PSAT admissions coaching grammar law statistics & probability psychology ESL research 1L CARS SSAT covid-19 legal studies logic games reading comprehension dental admissions mathematics USMLE Spanish calculus engineering parents Latin verbal reasoning DAT excel mentorship political science French Linguistics Tutoring Approaches academic integrity case coaching chinese AMCAS DO MBA coursework PhD admissions Social Advocacy admissions advice biochemistry classics diversity statement genetics geometry kinematics medical school mental health quantitative reasoning skills time management Anki English literature IB exams ISEE MD/PhD programs algebra algorithms art history artificial intelligence astrophysics athletics business business skills careers cold emails data science internships letters of recommendation poetry presentations resume science social sciences software engineering study abroad tech industry trigonometry work and activities 2L 3L Academic Interest DMD EMT FlexMed Fourier Series Greek Health Professional Shortage Area Italian Lagrange multipliers London MD vs PhD MMI Montessori National Health Service Corps Pythagorean Theorem Python STEM Sentence Correction Step 2 TMDSAS Zoom acids and bases amino acids analysis essay architecture argumentative writing brain teaser campus visits cantonese capacitors capital markets cell biology central limit theorem chemical engineering chess chromatography class participation climate change clinical experience community service constitutional law consulting cover letters curriculum demonstrated interest dental school distance learning electricity and magnetism enrichment european history executive function finance first generation student freewriting fun facts functions gap year genomics harmonics health policy history of medicine history of science hybrid vehicles hydrophobic effect ideal gas law induction information sessions institutional actions integrated reasoning intern international students investing investment banking lab reports logic mandarin chinese mba mechanical engineering medical physics meiosis microeconomics mitosis music music theory neurology neuroscience office hours operating systems organization pedagogy phrase structure rules plagiarism pre-dental proofs pseudocode psych/soc quantum mechanics resistors resonance revising scholarships school selection simple linear regression slide decks sociology software stem cells stereochemistry study spots synthesis teaching technical interviews transfer typology units virtual interviews writer's block writing circles