How I Send My Monkey Mind To Its’ Cage: Free Writing

I experiment non-stop and I record heaps of data about myself. Gems like “Does it feel better to meditate at 10:37 am or at 2:10 pm?” or “can I drink more whiskey-sodas after a meal of chicken wings or after a fluffy Sheppard’s pie? Mostly useless, totally subjective stuff – which I believe all good self-experimentation to be.

By far, the most useful thing that my experimentation has yielded this year is a 10-15 minute buzz that I call free writing. Writing isn’t much more than a hobby for me, and I’m no better at it than I am at squishing pimples off my own back. But when I want to get into a zone where I feel like a great writer, free writing is now what I do.

It has completely killed any fear and procrastination that I used to feel before writing.

It gets me out of my own head, oils my lexical gears, quiets my internal critic, and gives my monkey mind something to do – so that it will shut up and I can go about creating something.

The premise:

  1. Give yourself room to run
  2. Distract the shit out of yourself
  3. Sprint through 10-15 minutes of writing without looking down

Here are the 3 steps.

1) Open Evernote: I want a completely blank page and a platform that is very forgiving of typing errors when I’m writing. The best tool I’ve found for this is Evernote. The interface is clear and free of tools and clicky-things. It is heavy handed with the autocorrect, so I don’t end up with a lot of red error marks that drive my OCD tendencies bat-shit crazy while I’m trying to write.

2) Open iTunes: Use over-the-top audio and visual stimulus to distract your monkey mind. THIS IS SUPER CRITICAL. I use iTunes and turn on the visualizations so that I can pump deep house or some other rhythmic EDM, stare off into this little window of blinky, twisty orbs and not think about what is being typed out by my fingers, or how and where is it coming from. This is the disconnect I’m seeking from my critiquing inner voice. Sometimes I’ll also stare over the top of my laptop if I’m writing at a busy coffee shop, or watching a bustling street. The key is that whatever you’re looking at has to have tons of activity going on. You must resist the urge to look down at your fingers and at your page.

 

Free Writing Screen
Evernote (left) iTunes visualization (bottom right)

 

3) Start Typing: The key to the last piece is you must SPRINT. Type as fast as you can. Don’t look down. Don’t look at anything except your visual distraction. It’s pretty much required that you be able to touch type (e.g. via the home-row method). But if you can’t do that now, you can likely teach yourself with a few hours. (https://www.typingclub.com/). I wasn’t a particularly fast typer when I started this, but I just gifted myself the room to learn, and pretty soon my typing caught up to my brain. Now it is amazing how fast I can type once I’m flowing, which usually happens within 2-3 minutes of when I start.

Sometimes it’s just a good warm up for writing, and sometimes the spew of semi-cognitive alphabet jumble that comes out of my head holds little bits of fear, or worry, or even desire, and ever so rarely some brilliance that I didn’t know was in there.

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