**Note from Dani: When I first came across this exercise, I thought it was vanilla. However, I have to admit that this is my 'go to' exercise for free writing that I have repeated many times.**
Do a timed writing for ten minutes. Begin it with “I remember” and keep going. Every time you get stuck and feel you have nothing to say, write, “I remember” again and keep going. To begin with “I remember” does not mean you have to write only about your past. Once you get going, you follow your own mind where it takes you. You can fall into one memory of your mother’s teeth for ten minutes of writing or you can list lots of short memories. The memory can be something that happened five seconds ago. When you write memory, it isn’t in the past anyway. It’s alive right now.
Okay, after the ten minutes, stop. Walk around your kitchen table or get a piece of leftover fish from last night’s dinner to nibble on, but don’t talk. Now go for another ten minutes. This time, begin with “I don’t remember” and keep going. This is good. It gets to the underbelly of your mind, the blank, dark spaces of your thoughts.
Sometimes we write along one highway of “I remember,” seat-belt ourselves in and drive. Using the negative, “I don’t remember,” allows us to make a U-turn and see how things look in the night. What are the things you don’t care to remember, have repressed, but remember underneath all the same?
Now try “I’m thinking of” for ten minutes. Then, “I’m not thinking of” for ten minutes. Write beginning with “I know,” then “I don’t know,” for ten minutes. The list is endless: “I am, I’m not”; “I want, I don’t want”; “I feel, I don’t feel.”
I use these for warm-ups. It stretches my mind in positive and negative directions, in obvious and hidden places, in the conscious and the unconscious. It also is a chance to survey my mind and limber me up before I direct my thoughts to whatever I am working on.
Excerpt from Natalie Goldberg's Wild Mind: Living the Writer's Life
Goldberg, Natalie. Wild Mind: Living the Writer's Life. New York: Bantam Books, 1990