Writing Assignment: The First Thing That Pops Into Your Head

by Randy Murray on April 8, 2011

I sometimes forget how scary writing can be for people who are not used to doing it. For them, writing is an unnatural act, a form of magic, an arcane knowledge, a kind of cryptography. Speech, by comparison, seems natural and simple.

I speak with people in business every day and I’ve seen that the fear of writing is profound and deep. Many people can text away, post short notes on their Facebook walls, but if required to write something for business or themselves that they become completely locked up. It’s not that they don’t understand how to make characters or understand the meaning of words, but they’re convinced that writing is boring, difficult, and they won’t be able to do it well. They’re embarrassed by their writing skills.

One of the ways to make writing less frightening is to make it familiar and common, a regular, everyday behavior. Water skiing is a mystery until you find  yourself being dragged through the water with a board strapped to your feet. It’s easy to just give up or not try at all. But with a bit of practice and coaching you’ll soon find yourself gliding over the surface. Writing works the same way. You just need a bit of coaching and practice.

One of the simplest methods for learning to write well is simply to write whatever comes to mind, so-called “stream of consciousness” writing. It need not make sense, be correct English, or be seen by anyone else. The purpose of this assignment is to eliminate any hesitation and to free you to write easily.

For today’s assignment, put five minutes on a timer and just write whatever pops into your head.. Don’t stop to correct, fix, or edit. Just write. When you’re done you can review what you’ve written, if you like, or simply throw it away. Your purpose isn’t to create something (although you might — that’s why it’s worth reviewing), but to warm up, stretch your writing muscles, and to prepare for more writing.

I’m not posting a sample today. Use what’s in your mind, not mine. And don’t bother posting your sample. This writing assignment is just for you.

Note: this is an exercise that you may find easier and more productive by using a pen and paper rather than typing on a computer or electronic device.


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The Writing Assignment: The First Thing That Pops Into Your Head by Randy Murray, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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