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One of the main barriers to reflective writing is fear of the blank page. Whether you are looking at a sheet of paper or a computer screen there is nothing worse than staring at an empty page and wondering where to start.
Free writing is an exercise which can help with this. When practicing free writing you don't need to think about sentence structure, grammar or spelling - you just write for a period of ten minutes without stopping. Taking away the pressure to produce something perfect the first time can really help to make your writing flow and you will be surprised at how much you can produce in a short time. To try this exercise follow the instructions below. Alternative versions of the exercise including audio tracks are available underneath the image-based version.
Choose one of the images below (tip: you can use the forward and back arrows on either side to select a new image) and write about it for ten minutes without stopping. Don't worry about your sentence structure, grammar or spelling and don't review anything. If you want to you can use the prompt questions next to the image to get you started but just write whatever comes to mind. At the end of ten minutes look back at how much you have written. Are you surprised with the amount?
This exercise is also available in a number of alternative formats. Please select your preferred option below:
Free writing is just the first step in reflective writing. Once you have completed your ten minute exercise go back over what you have written. Much of it will make no sense but there will be pieces which you can pick out and adapt in future versions. This is very much a first draft and does not have to be perfect.
You can also try this exercise when reflecting on a real experience. Try writing for ten minutes and then going back over what you have written and refining it. You could even put the paper aside for a while before you come back to it as having a bit of distance often helps you to think clearly.
You may find this process helpful when working on any type of reflective document. Write down all the ideas in your head and then put the paper aside. Come back to it later and start editing - take the parts that make some sense and put them into a sensible order. Over time you will find that you build a document which becomes more reflective and closer to the final draft.