Yesterday, I taught my Fear & Writing workshop at Seattle’s Northeast Library. I love teaching this workshop. Every time I do it, I discover once again why I keep writing even though I’ve had hard times and challenges with it.
Thanks to everyone who came out! I hope my workshop helped you, and I want you to know that each and every one of you helped me. Every time I get the chance to help other writers, it helps keep me writing.
In my workshop, we always spend time freewriting because it’s one of the key techniques that helped me break out of my funk when I was paralyzed with fear after becoming a full-time writer. Freewriting is a great way to stop procrastinating and start writing!
The way I teach freewriting is I set a timer for two minutes, read aloud a prompt, and students then write their response to the prompt without going back and without editing until the timer goes off. Then, I set the timer again and read aloud the next prompt.
We did six prompts for two minutes each. In just 12 minutes, each student had written six paragraphs or more. It’s amazing how much you can write in only 12 minutes!
Before the workshop, I wrote to the same prompts to put myself in my students’ shoes. I allowed myself to write for five minutes instead of two for each prompt. Still, no backtracking and no editing.
Here’s what I wrote to the prompt, “Dear Fear and Creativity…”–a prompt inspired by The Road Trip story from Elizabeth Gilbert’s book, BIG MAGIC: Creative Living Beyond Fear.
Dear Fear and Creativity,
Can we agree on something?
Fear, you will keep me safe when I’m truly in danger.
You will signal and grab hold of me when my body, mind and/or soul are at risk of being assaulted, whether physically or mentally or emotionally. You will activate my body to steer me to safety and my brain will shut up and just follow you.
Fear, I promise that I will do this if you do this for me. That is your job and my job is to listen to you in those situations. But, when I am not in danger of mental, emotional, or bodily harm, I want you to sit in the backseat and let Creativity drive.
Creativity, take me wherever you think would allow me the most growth. Support me in taking things I already know in a different direction. Push me to step outside of comfort so that I can experience the thrill of new learning and enlightenment. Encourage me to not be afraid, to know that sometimes (many times) Fear wants to drive but that Fear should only drive when we are in real danger of being harmed.
Creativity and Fear, celebrate with me when we do what’s right for us all, when we stand steadfast in our true nature, and bring our best selves to the table.
I love you both. I need you both.
Are you with me?
Want to try it? Great!
Set a timer for five minutes. Then, write on a piece of paper (pen and paper is best for freewriting–it doesn’t work as well on a computer): Dear Fear and Creativity…
Start the timer and go. Write whatever wants to come out. Don’t backtrack. Don’t edit.
Stop when the timer goes off. Now, read what you wrote.
What did you discover?
I’d love to hear how it went for you. Post your thoughts below and let me know!
ps. If you enjoyed this exercise, check out my Fear & Writing course. There’s lots of prompts in this course that’ll get your creativity moving and your writing engine chugging.
Peg Cheng is the author of The Contenders, a middle-grade novel centered on the question, can enemies become friends? She is currently writing a book about how she will be a millionaire when she retires even though she’s made an average of $27,000 per year. Peg is also the creator of Fear & Writing, a workshop for procrastinating writers from all walks of life.
Photo by Marcus Donner.