It was the day the pumpkin appeared on the chair…

Tok Jo! (Hungarian for ‘Pumpkin Good’ or ‘Perfect’) a painting by me, 2003

Freewriting is what you write when there’s no one looking. Freewriting is the madman in your brain taking the controls and sending words all the way down to the tips of your fingers. Freewriting is where you’ll find the most brilliant story ideas, if you look hard enough.

To freewrite, just write. Write the first word that comes to mind and then follow it with another. Set an alarm if you can. Don’t worry about grammar, structure, character development – just write. And when you’re done, stand back and take a look. Is there anything in there you can use. I’ll say there is!

Here’s an example:

‘Right now I’m sitting at my computer and the coffee cup is on the edge of my desk. It looks a little like an iceberg, as it is white and chipped and cold because the coffee has been in it since the morning as I didn’t do the washing up last night and the sink is full of plates and saucers. All those plates look surreal sitting unwashed in the sink like that. All at different angles like a Picasso painting with ketchup instead of paint dribbled over the plates. I wonder if Picasso got his ideas from waking up one morning and seeing his jumble of washing up in the sink I wonder if all the museums in the world actually have pictures of Picasso’s washing up and not his mistresses and Guernica and does that mean the joke is on us?’

The above freewrite might seem silly but it’s also an example of how freewriting could, potentially, inspire a proper piece of writing. This daft thought about Picasso’s washing up could easily be worked into a comedy radio play where a hung-over Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse wake up after a night out on the town and dare each other to paint a picture of the mess of washing up in the sink. Thus, the modern art movement is accidentally launched. Another possibility you could take from this freewrite is the concept that something generally considered ugly and in need of repair or attention (washing up) can lead to tremendous artistic inspiration – and this idea could form the kernel of a short story or a poem.

Here, chose one of the prompts below and let it lead you into a three minute freewrite.

I wish I had said….

It was no use pretending….

A long time ago…

For the first time ever….

It was the day the pumpkin appeared on the chair…


About suehealy

From Ireland, Sue Healy is Literary Manager at the Finborough Theatre, London, a full-time Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Lincoln. Her book on theatre literary management is published by Routledge, December 2022. Sue is an award-winning writer for stage, TV, and prose writer. TV Her current project, a 6x60minute TV series, is under option. She is under commission with Lone Wolf Media, producers behind PBS’ “Mercy Street”, to co-write the pilot and treatment for a six-part TV series. Stage Her most recent stage-play, Imaginationship (2018), enjoyed a sold out, extended run at the Finborough and later showed at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough. Her previous stage productions include Cow (Etcetera Theatre, 2017) and Brazen (King’s Head Theatre, 2016), funded by Arts Council England. Sue’s short plays have been performed at the Criterion (Criterion New Writing Showcase), Arcola (The Miniaturists) and Hackney Attic (Fizzy Sherbet Shorts). Radio Her radio work includes nine plays broadcast on BBC Radio 4 (Opening Lines winner), WLRfm and KCLR96fm. Prose Sue has won The Molly Keane Award, HISSAC Prize, Escalator Award, Meridian Prize and has been published in nine literary journals and anthologies including: The Moth, Flight, Tainted Innocence, New Writer, Duality, HISSAC, New European Writers. She has been writer-in-residence on Inis Oírr, Aran Islands, and at the Heinrich Boll Cottage on Achill Island. She has also benefitted from annual artist residencies at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre, and at Ginestrelle, Assisi in Italy. An academic with a PhD in modern theatre history, specifically the Royal Court Theatre, Sue has presented her research internationally. She spent eleven years in Budapest, editing Hungary A.M. She has a PhD in modern theatre history (Royal Court Theatre) and is a UEA Creative Writing MA alumnus. View all posts by suehealy

16 responses to “It was the day the pumpkin appeared on the chair…

  • Words From the Moon

    Thank you Sue for the reminder about freewriting, and some prompts to get me going. Sometimes I arrogantly think I can write without any kind of exercises or practice to become a better writer, but like any other skill it needs to be worked on – and now I will do some freewriting!

  • Kate

    I recall freewriting in junior high and high school. I have journals all over the house just for this purpose. The crazy girl in my head just needs an outlet somedays; and I just go with the flow. On days when I can’t think of what to write in my blog posts, I refer back to my journals. Usually, I can find something that helps me craft something usable. I love where your freewriting took you.

  • Kourtney Heintz

    My high school English teacher used to make us freewrite for 10 minutes a week in class. It was always intriguing what popped out and how much better my essays were after that exercise. Love the painting! The colors are so vivid it makes me happy to look at it. 🙂

  • Amy Keeley

    I haven’t done any freewriting in many years. I’m not sure why I stopped. Thank you for reminding me of this tool.

  • sfbell09

    Freewriting seems like a good way to get unnoticed ideas out of your head and down on paper where they can be investigated. I will certainly have to give this a try sometime soon.

  • Eliza

    I love to free write and I believe it’s essential. Thanks for sharing this!

  • Pat Bean

    What a great painting. I love the bright colors and the shapes of the chair, peppers and pumpkin. It’s a piece I would love to have hanging on a wall in my home, except my RV really doesn’t have walls.

  • willofheart

    this is interesting for me because I haven’t try free writing, I am going to try this in my site , thanks for sharing…

  • Writing for Self vs. Audience | kateschannel

    […] creative writing. Usually, I write about whatever comes to mind. Earlier this week, I read a post, It Was the Day the Pumpkin Appeared on the Chair, about freewriting. That post took me back to junior high, high school and college where […]

  • Samantha Albert

    Three minutes was not enough, which was surprising considering I wasn’t even sure if I would get past the first sentence. I generally write non-fiction, but I wove a fanciful idea of the pumpkin into a real-life situation. this was a great, playful exercise. Thank you!

  • Ceecee

    Lol..Interesting post..compels the mind to just open up and let words do their magic and string itself into a story..
    I went with one of your phrases you could read my free written post

  • Rodger Jacobs

    “Freewriting” is how I always approach flash fiction, though I have not been practicing the form as much as I did in 2008-09, when I was cranking the stuff out for a former blog like they were so many jelly beans; I always started with a line of dialogue and built a story from there. A quick example titled “Jack in the Box Coffee”:

    “Well, well, well,” said Jerry, folding the Business News section of the paper and depositing it snugly into the magazine holder on the side of his Barcalounger. “It seems that the new Bold Roast coffee wasn’t good enough for Jack in the Box.”

    Maria looked up from the dishwasher. She was loading the plates, mugs, and glasses from breakfast. “What on earth are you talking about?”

    “Jack in the Box!” Jerry scowled. “That new Bold Roast coffee of theirs we like so much.”

    “What about it?” She was searching for the box of Cascade.

    “They’re gonna start selling an iced coffee. They call it a slightly sweetened French roast with two-percent milk. They’ll have regular, vanilla, and caramel flavors.”

    Maria found the Cascade and sprinkled the dish detergent into the slot on the dishwasher door. “Doesn’t Burger King already sell iced coffee?”

    “Yes. That’s my point,” Jerry said irritably. “Sometimes, Maria, life just comes at us too damn fast.”


  • bardessdmdenton

    The painting is WONDERFUL, Sue! And this is such a good post about freeing our writing and creativity up. So it can have the bold color and expression of this painting of yours,

    Thanks for sharing!

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