It was January 2015 when, inspired by a weekend of baking bread with Mick Hartley The Partisan Baker, I composed my first post for The Freewriter’s Companion.
I had two aims. One was to popularize freewriting, a liberating and fertile method of smashing writing blocks and of generating material that can form the basis of stories, poems or novels. The second aim was to promote Surrealist women artists and writers from the past such as Dorothea Tanning, Meret Oppenheim and Leonora Carrington who have been overshadowed by their male counterparts (Salvador Dali, Rene Magritte, Andre Breton, and so on).
The combination of freewriting and Surrealism was important to me for other reasons too. I had been researching a novel about Surrealism and at the same time experimenting with Natalie Goldberg’s methods of writing practice. It occurred to me that this approach to creative writing was really a Surrealist one and resembled the automatic writing that all the Surrealists practised in the 20s and 30s. I wondered why no one (apart from literary critics such as Kevin Brophy and a few others) had brought these two things together. So I did.
I taught freewriting courses at Bangor University’s Lifelong Learning department until its tragic closure in 2017 and then launched some very successful independent courses of my own in a local cafe. Students found freewriting hugely useful, easy and rewarding and produced excellent, original work from it, often accessing their own “voice” for the first time.
My weekly prompts which started last January have had a positive response too. In all this, I was careful to include the Surrealist origins of freewriting (as I see it) and to emphasise the role of the unconsious, the random and the political.
Along the way, some of my blog posts were particularly successful such as the directly useful Become a Writer in 10 Minutes and Six Uses for Freewriting.
People were kind enough to respond to posts about Leonora Carrington’s Liverpool Tate exhibition and to acknowledge my admiration and love for a family member we lost in 2017 who turned out to have been a writer of no mean achievement.
I enjoyed the chance to explore the feminist aspects of the critical neglect of women Surrealists in a post about the Surrealist muse and was gratified that people were keen to read about the way I fictionalised the 1938 International Exhibition of Surrealism in Paris in my own novel.
Also, people across the world seemed to enjoy the Surrealist Christmas games I described.
I hope this selection of highlights will send you on a tour of the website which has been going for five years now. At the beginning of 2020 I shall be working on a re-launch of The Freewriter’s Companion, so please come back in the new year and see what’s new here.