free the pen, a blog for writers

June 30, 2018

The Act of Writing

Filed under: writing techniques — freethepen @ 1:43 pm

Janhawaii2015 Wherever I go I take my journal and when I can find a second I sit and write. The act of writing is a way to meditate on your experience in the moment. It is a way to resolve the past. It is a way to dream of the future. Best of all it is a way to get to know the self that lives within you. All this and more can be accomplished through the use of your pen, not the computer, but the pen. The process is not the same. The pen vs. the computer use different parts of the brain.

When you write, write without stopping, no censorship, nor editing. Let the self speak. Let the mind have its space to move around on the page. Write and watch the mind unfold.

Take a deep breath. Pick up your pen and start with where you are in this moment, this very moment. Breathe in and out and in and out and let thoughts show up on the page. This might take some practice but if you are not writing, you are in the way. Get out of the way and let whatever thoughts you have right now show up on the page. Now, keep going.

Keep the pen moving,



June 27, 2018

Wild Writing

Filed under: writing techniques — freethepen @ 12:59 pm

babywithbook Take your favorite book whether poetry, fiction, non-fiction or any other genre and find a sentence that makes you think, feel, or experience. Write that sentence on a clean page. If it reminds you of something you lived continue the sentence into a piece of your own. If the sentence makes your imagination run wild, write out scenes you are imagining.

Keep the pen moving,


June 20, 2018

Yarn, Lace, Tomatoes

Filed under: writing techniques — freethepen @ 1:09 pm

Vegetable garden - little gardener with harvests of organic toma Yarn, lace, tomatoes – put them in one written piece, fact or fiction of at least 300 words. Be creative. Maybe your piece will become a lovely poem, or a piece of prose, or the start to a sci fi novel.

Keep the pen moving,



May 17, 2018


Filed under: writing techniques — freethepen @ 1:42 pm

Kids with chef hats preparing the cake dough - mixing ingredient Continuing a theme I put on my other blog, yesterday, write out a list of activities you would love to do with your friends. Maybe Friday night you can have friends over to join together to make pasta, or perhaps everyone can bring a CD of their favorite music to listen to or some such activity that involves sharing and getting to know each other better.

Look at the month of June and designate a few times to bring people together. Write out your plan for what you would like to do and who you would like to invite. Writing out plans make them manifest. Just thinking about them is not enough.

The power of writing can be used in all situations.

Keep the pen moving,



May 2, 2017


Filed under: writing techniques — freethepen @ 1:23 pm

Janhawaii2015 Okay, let”s put this myth to rest. There is no such thing as writer’s block. When you sit staring at the page, tune in. Are you pushing your mind — well — stop it — our minds don’t like to be pushed. Instead, stretch, drink some water or tea, walk in meditation, or write about how the blank page makes you feel. Pushing words to form is ineffective. Everything stops for a reason. It is not a block, it is a moving in a different direction. I speak more about this in my book, The Mindful Writer, Still the Mind, Free the Pen. Next time you think you have writer’s block, write about the feeling of the ‘block’. You’ll see. You will be writing in no time.

Keep the pen moving,

Jan and

April 30, 2017

Point of View

Filed under: writing techniques — freethepen @ 1:57 pm

jan pen ink for web Try this! Take an experience in your life, one that has some emotional juice. Write it out in all its glory. Then rewrite it in the third person. Then rewrite it again back into the first person. Now look at the two first person pieces. Notice how you wrote the second first person piece in more detail or started at a different point or even wrote with more emotion. This is a great technique for letting go of the experience , to gain some distance from it allowing you to drop down deeper into it by rewriting the first person.

Keep the pen moving,

Jan and

April 8, 2017

He Said – She Said.

Filed under: writing techniques — freethepen @ 1:58 pm

Boys Fishing Ever overhear a conversation. “And then she said,” one person would say. “And then I said,” he would explain. Write out a dialogue that you witnessed. If you can’t find one, write one in which you were part. Put in details such as tone of voice, dialect, pitch, volume, smell of breath, form of mouth, teeth description, lip size, or other details. Get out your Thesaurus and find alternative descriptive words. Writing takes one thing and one thing only: practice.

Keep the pen moving,


March 23, 2017

Flash Fiction

Filed under: writing techniques — freethepen @ 2:41 pm

Long Stem Red RoseA single rose.   callalilly A tall and regal calla lily.   KODAK Digital Still Camera  A cypress tree.

Write a flash fiction piece, between 250 and 750 words, about what it means for a character named Alice to plant these in her small backyard just as she was embarking on a healing journey from a broken heart.

Keep the pen moving,


March 16, 2017


Filed under: writing techniques — freethepen @ 2:33 pm

idea Ever wake at 3 in the morning with an idea and think you’re going to remember it when you wake up? What happens? About dinner time you remember you had some idea that you can’t remember and wish you had written it down. So, keep a pad and pencil by your bed. You can write in the dark — in the morning you will have some notes to help you recall what woke you up. I’ve written many pieces that woke me in the middle of the night. Those are the ideas with power. No need to turn on the light and don’t take time to turn on devices. Just write and . . .

keep the pen moving,


July 19, 2014

Journaling and Writing are Soul Mates

Filed under: writing techniques — freethepen @ 12:58 pm

Journaling and Writing are Soul Mates

by Mari L. McCarthy

I am a journal writing therapist. I believe passionately in the power of daily pen-to-the-page journaling to heal, grow, and become the person we were meant to be.  But the practice of journal writing provides more than therapy. One of the wonderful benefits of a regular journaling practice is improvement in your writing skill.  When you play a musical instrument, you practice playing scales. Journal writing is like playing scales for other kinds of writing. Like a beloved soul mate, journaling improves, encourages, and adores your “real-world” endeavors of all kinds.  Just playing with the tools, the words, the composition of thoughts and stories is the kind of practice journaling allows. You’re not required to be entertaining; you need not be an accomplished writer in your journal. All you want to do is express, tell the story, unload the heartache, voice the joy. There’s no objective, apart from completing your daily entry.

Journaling is you speaking to you, which is a nicely safe space. But it’s actually not speaking at all – it’s writing, and that involves words and paper and pen and that magical transformation that happens with any clear articulation. As soon as you can describe, tell, communicate any message or story, you free it to live and transcend and grow. So how exactly does this intimate everyday ritual of journaling relate to you as a writer of published works? Journaling is all very well, but those handwritten notebooks live comfortably on the shelf. Your published work, on the other hand, is out there for all the world to see. What’s the connection between them?

Well, there are many answers to that question. Here are just a few:

  1. Journaling is a writing habit you practice regularly, so it is naturally very likely to improve your ability to write with ease.
  2. Journaling that is pen-to-page involves neuromuscular development and coordination of body and mind. In our digital age, there’s little opportunity to exercise the hand’s creativity, but when we do practice working with the hands, we notice many benefits.
  3. Journaling is introspective and invites free expression, helping to loosen up your access to honest, raw emotions.
  4. Journaling shows us better who we are and this knowing makes our published work more honest.
  5. Journaling helps us find solutions to problems, and we can use the same process in our writing that is meant for an audience. Read over the stories you have told, the knots that have unraveled (or not!) in your journal, and mimic their progress in the writing you do for publication.

A musician does scales. A painter sketches constantly. An entrepreneur dabbles in initiatives; a politician talks and talks some more. Every passion has its practice soul mate.

  • Are you a beginning writer? Then journal to discover your unique voice and the stories that you feel compelled to tell.
  • Are you an intermediate writer? Then journal to deepen your effect.
  • Are you an advanced writer? Then journal to keep yourself honest!

A writer journals because the business of writing is writing; and journal writing is the most efficient and effective way to hone that skill every day!


Mari L. McCarthy is The Journaling Therapy Specialist, founder of Create Write Now (, the Transform Your Life Journaling Place. She offers counseling and encouragement to journal writers through her many online Journaling for the Self of It TM resources, as well as private consultations. Mari’s the community manager on the CreateWriteNow Facebook page and she often leads online journaling challenges. Mari lives in Boston where she raises roses and consciousness.

Thank you Mari for this fabulous article and I encourage all my readers to check out Mari’s blog and sign up for her newsletter. You won’t be sorry.

As always, keep the pen moving,




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