Free Association by Doug Lewandowski

I like to tap into what’s between my ears in a very deliberate way, akin to a brainstorming technique.

I am a freelance writer. The only commitment I have to writing practice is the one’s I make to those who are expecting me to produce for them. That is a good thing. It is very easy to hold off sitting down and banging something out that is relevant, cogent and has some value.

Dashing off something for the News Tribune in Duluth requires thoughtful consideration. I seem to have ideas rolling around in my head all the time. It’s kind of like watching the water cascade over the rocks at Gooseberry Falls. There, depending on the season of the year, it’s either torrent or trickle, but it still keeps coming. The trick is to pay attention and enjoy the majesty in high flow periods or the contemplative interludes during the quieter hours, when the water’s rush to the big lake becomes a trickle that slips through the cracks and furrows surrounding the falls. To access that flow and its potential the simple act of free association seems to work for me.

There are all kinds of ways to free associate. A tool of psychoanalysis, it’s purpose is to deepen self-understanding by looking at whatever thoughts, words, or images come freely into our minds. Using it as tool for inspiration in writing can deliver grist for the creative mill.

Scott Myers, the screenwriter has some ideas on his website, Dumb Little Writing Tricks That Work: Free Association | by Scott Myers | Go Into The Story ( There are some helpful tips for generating tidbits from your imagination.

I like to tap into what’s between my ears in a very deliberate way, akin to a brainstorming technique. I have the good fortune of being able to look out an office window toward a wooded area adjacent to our yard. Then I take a letter size legal pad and write down whatever comes to mind. Each phrase or word will inevitably generate a stimulus or tail that can be added to, to generate further refinement for composing a viable text. After that is done, it is a matter of picking one thread and pulling on it to get the ideas for an outline and jotting them down for later writing.

None of this of course will guarantee a sterling product, but it is a start. And really, when  it gets down to producing a creative piece, starting, to my mind is the hardest part.

Doug Lewandowski has walked a varied path. He was a Christian Brother, an English teacher/counselor and is a retired Licensed Psychologist. He writes a column in the Duluth News Tribune and has had a story published in the Nemadji Review and placed third in 2020 in the Jade Ring’s short story contest of the Wisconsin Writer’s Association. Another short story was recently accepted for fall publication in the Jack Pine’s Writer’s Bloc “Talking Stick.” He was a commentator for KCRB, Minnesota Public Radio in the 90s. Doug transplanted to Duluth in 2018 to be closer to grandchildren. You may follow him on his blog