In our last post, we promised to let you in on our tried-and-true method for vanquishing writer’s block, our constant go-to for accessing inspiration, our foolproof tool for writing a brilliant application essay when it seems like the river of words has utterly dried up. It’s called the freewrite, and it’s a beautiful thing.
The technique is simple: pick a topic, set a timer, and write without stopping. Even when the inner critic pipes up (and it will), even when your mind says “no, don’t say that,” don’t listen. Just keep writing. Write whatever wants to come out, even if it doesn’t seem to make sense. You never know what you’ll discover about yourself!
To practice, start with no topic at all—set a timer for five minutes and just write. I call this the “brain dump,” because it feels like clearing out all the gunk that’s in the way of what I really want to write about. The only rule is to keep the pen (or your typing fingers) moving. Often, in my journal, I’ll fill up half a page with the words “keep writing keep writing keep writing” because I don’t know what else to say. Usually, after doing that for a few moments, something in me will click and I’ll start writing about something real. Again, it doesn’t matter what you say in a freewrite; the trick is to just keep writing, without judging, without worrying, without stopping, until the timer goes off.
Ready to apply it to your application essay? Pick something about the essay you want to explore or that you’re stuck on. Perhaps you want to freewrite on an experience that particularly inspired or challenged you, or maybe you want to see what comes out when you write without stopping about why you love your chosen field so much. I especially like freewriting on my future visions, goals, and dreams—it’s easy to limit ourselves when we’re writing about these in an essay, and so much more fun to let ourselves really go crazy and dream big. Again, it’s helpful to set a timer or limit—five minutes, ten minutes, a paragraph, a page. And then see what comes out.
When you’re done, stop. Save the file, put the paper away, and let it rest. Then, after a few hours or a night of sleep, come back to the file or page and read it. What stands out? What do you find most true and interesting in your freewrites? Most likely you have the seeds for an interesting, compelling essay that shows the real you, the most true version of yourself. Once you have these seeds, you can expand on them, shape them, and edit them into a full-on essay (or have one of our experienced editors help you out). At the very least, you’ll have overcome your writer’s block—you’ll have found the key to that treasure chest of amazingness inside you. And once it’s open, there’s no going back.
So go ahead! Give it a try. It can’t hurt, and it could crack open something in you that will lead to a truly memorable, amazing essay. You’ll come up with ideas you never knew you had, describe experiences you might never have remembered otherwise, and access the parts of you that really matter. And that’s what makes for truly excellent, believable writing—the kind of writing that will take you where you want to go.
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