Free writes are babbling on paper. Unedited, no punctuation required. No paragraphs. Use them if you want to -- but I find they slow me down and make me think, when the whole purpose of a free write is to write really fast and clear your head.
Basically, let your mind wander and hope your fingers keep up.
I first started using free writes years ago, when an agency I worked at incorporated The Artist's Way at Work into our corporate culture. In the book (buy it! read it! use it!), Mark Bryan, Julia Cameron and Catherine Allen promote morning pages -- three handwritten, single-sided sheets of free writing done every morning.
In their words:
In the MPs, anything goes. This means they will be scattered, often trivial, frequently negative, petty, self-doubting, angry, and seemingly pointless. They are not.
All that mental debris is the clutter that comes between us and our creative potential. We often call the pages brain drain because they are designed to siphon off poisonous attitudes, the "pond scum of the mind."
Now, here's a revelation that may astonish you: I lack discipline. (I hear the collective gasp of shock. Thank you.) I haven't been faithfully doing the morning pages since I left the agency. However, I can give you another visual example to show you how powerful the process can be. During my Artist's Way period, I painted this Winnie the Pooh. Freehand. And I could do it because the pond scum that tells me I am not an artist had been siphoned off.
The "pond scum" link is from 2008, so the presentation I reference in that post is long over. But Mike and I are still out there talking to groups, and we love to hear your stories.
Spring cleaning can start in your head. Write those cobwebs out!