Writing 101, Day One: Unlock the Mind

Welcome to Writing 101. In this inaugural assignment, let’s loosen up and just write. We’re so excited you’ve joined us — let’s get started!

Welcome to Blogging U! This course isn't currently active, but you can learn more about what we offer and register for upcoming courses on the BU home page.

You write because you have an idea in your mind that feels so genuine, so important, so true. And yet, by the time this idea passes through the different filters of your mind, and into your hand, and onto the page or computer screen — it becomes distorted, and it’s been diminished. The writing you end up with is an approximation, if you’re lucky, of whatever it was you really wanted to say.

— Author Khaled Hosseini, “How to Write,” the Atlantic

On The Daily Post, we try to instill a daily blogging habit in each of our readers. We’ve gotten to know many of you — your avatars, your blogs — and are reminded each day that our community is full of many different stories and voices.

Some of you want to take your craft of writing to the next level — you might be a seasoned daily prompter ready for something more, or want to experiment with different aspects of storytelling, from considering your setting and point of view, to developing your characters and dialogue.

So, welcome to Writing 101: Building a Blogging Habit. In these twenty days, we’ll dive into the elements of storytelling, help you cut through writer’s block and — as Natalie Goldberg teaches — access the pure thoughts and ideas of your wild mind.

To get started, let’s loosen up. Let’s unlock the mind. Today, take twenty minutes to free write. And don’t think about what you’ll write. Just write.

Keep typing (or scribbling, if you prefer to handwrite for this exercise) until your twenty minutes are up. It doesn’t matter if what you write is incomplete, or nonsense, or not worthy of the “Publish” button.

And for your first twist? Publish this stream-of-consciousness post on your blog.

Need a helping hand? Head to The Commons.

Also, here’s the official Writing 101 badge for your June 2014 course (original size / small size) to display on your blog. If you need instructions, check out this image widget support page.

Happy writing!

Remember: if you choose to publish what you write today, do so on your own blog. Feel free to leave a link on The Commons, seek feedback there, or just visit to chat and make friends, but your challenge posts should go on your blog.

If you registered on Friday or over the weekend, you’ll receive your welcome email and Commons access today.


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    1. Usually it results in a huge mess of jumbled topics and scattered notes that I have to piece together later.

      Nice. This is the type of material we’ll mine later to find patterns, themes, and more ideas. (We’ll be using some of this writing for later challenges, just FYI!) I personally tend to return to my notes all the time; when you’re in the middle of the act of writing, especially in a free write, you’re not always *thinking* — it’s great to go back and then see what you might have.


  1. I’m shocked to see the number of people who are actually posting their free writes on their blogs. A true free write has no corrections in spelling or punctuation, appears exactly as it comes out the first time. The internet is filled with this kind of garbage anyway. I don’t find a need to read more of it. Why would we be encouraged to post it? I won’t be clicking and reading. I see enough typos throughout my day and in my own free write without reading everyone else’s. Free write if you need to get the creativity flowing, but I don’t think anyone will benefit from seeing the roughest of all rough drafts stuck on a blog.


    1. Good points and criticism — sometimes the raw material is meant to stay in your drafts dashboard, to simmer and become rich and mature for future revision (I have 50+ drafts of free writes in my own blog’s dashboard.) Again, the twist to publish was optional — feel free to not click on others’ responses.

      That said, it’s interesting how we conflate writing with publishing — I draft something, only to believe it’s crap and unworthy, and it never sees the light of day. This blogging routine, which I’ve been stuck on for the past several years, has ingrained this attitude that most of my writing is unpublishable on my blog, creating a very cold, static feel on my blog (I just wrote about this, actually:, and in the past:

      There should be a way where we can balance the unpolished and polished on our own online spaces. It’s a challenge.

      Thanks for your critical feedback on this assignment.


      1. That’s a really interesting thought, Cheri. I think of drafts as “I’m going to publish this later,” not so much as “here’s an idea for a post!” I’m not sure where that mentality comes from, but I do the same thing with emails. My boss made a comment a couple weeks ago about writing a nasty email to a vendor, letting it sit in his drafts folder, and then deleting it. I have a hard time seeing the point.

        On the other hand, it’s not any different than working up multiple comps of a visual design piece—you know you aren’t going to use ALL of them; only one is going to make the final cut. As a hobbyist in the visual arts, I do my fair share of prototyping and thumbnails, only to wind up using a tiny fraction of the things I produce.

        It’s really interesting how I see the value in comping for one discipline and not the other.


  2. This challenge is so hard for me! I am a stickler for editing and “pre-thinking” what I want to write about. I would have to really pump myself up to actually publish something!

    Did any of you guys who have completed this task have the same issue?


    1. I had to really shut off my internal editor. In fact, after publishing I noticed an error or two that I REALLY WANT to go fix, but I’m resisting in the spirit of the exercise.


    2. You don’t have to publish anything if you don’t want to — you can leave that post as a draft in your dashboard for as long as you want.

      If your see the “glimmer of a beginning” — that amazing kernel of a new story, poem, or piece, run with that and publish it. The idea is to allow that internal editor to take a vacation so that you can just let thoughts pour out.


    1. Cool — thanks for joining in! I like your attitude to just dive in. I noticed how you immediately accessed your post — “back in youthful days…” — which is one of the best places to look for ideas and inspiration, especially for a free write. Our pasts are wonderful, mysterious, painful, complex, and beautiful wells to find stories.


    1. You can see each daily assignment here (published at 10 AM EST):

      If you’d like to sign up to receive email notifications each day during the month — and access the private Commons area where other participants are connecting with one another, asking questions, and getting feedback — here’s the sign up form:

      You can sign up until Friday. Thanks!


  3. Here is my post for the day. I am using the shortcut but, really don’t understand how this works yet so if this doesn’t get you there. Please let me know. Thanks. I really enjoyed this assignment. I am a firm believer in stream of Consciousness writing.


    1. Great mention of “The Artist’s Way” — I was recommended that book many times in my MFA program.

      Thanks for joining the challenge and for kicking things off with a free write.


  4. I tried linking my blog to this page and I’m just technologically challenged. If you’re interested in reading what I write, please feel free to look at my blog. I cannot figure out this linking and pingback stuff.


    1. If you’d like to leave a comment, you can simply include the URL of your post within a comment so readers can directly go to that post — instead of going to your blog and then hunting for the post in question.

      As for pingbacks — a pingback is automatically created when you insert a link to another post within your own post. For example, something like:

      These musings are in response to the Writing 101 assignment on unlocking the mind.

      To add a link to your post, the steps are here:


    1. Which springs up another topic in my head…

      I like how your free write meandered and just touched on the things currently on mind — friends, your journalism, your interests… Later, you can revisit it and pull the ideas that you want to actually write about.

      It’s nice to naturally see where your thoughts go, and how they morph — how topic A leads to topic B, and so on.


      1. Thanks for the input, I’m looking to rev-up the blogging action. These casual classes are great.


    1. Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.

      I need to get this tattooed on me. This is so true.