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Week 02 Episode 01: Exercises

Table of contents

  1. Listen
  2. Transcript
  3. Exercises
  4. Subscribe



Free writing introduction

During this week’s exercises I’m going to ask you to free-write. The idea here is simple: you take a piece of paper and pen, or whatever you like to write with, sit down for a few minutes, and just write whatever comes into your head. I’ll give you a prompt at the beginning so there’s a general topic, but just keep your pen or whatever you use to write moving. You’re not going to show this writing to anyone, nobody’s going to judge it, and there isn’t a big time commitment. But sometimes the strangest and most unexpected things can come out when you are distraction-free and just writing. Please hide your phone or anything that could distract you, get your head down, and just write. Try not to judge whether something is good or bad. And if you speak another language, write in whichever language you think in best.

The reason we are doing these exercises is to really think about something, to get our thoughts straight. Normally when we write or talk about something we police what we say in some way or another. Knowing that nobody else will see this means you can truly be free.

We’ll do the first exercises for 5 minutes each. At the end of the time, you’ll hear this sound.


Then I’ll give you a few seconds to finish up, and we can move on.

So, let’s begin with the first exercise. It’s about being stuck.

Most babies start talking with simple words. Normally they begin with nouns - Papa and mama, or their equivalents, are the most common words. Radiolab ran an episode about this topic (which I’ll link to in the show notes and transcript): it turns out that the first words you say are also some of the oldest. It makes sense - nouns, particularly the names of things you see all the time, are easy to comprehend, they’re easy to define, easy to refer to. Mama papa dog cat milk car…

I have a cousin whose first word was ‘stuck’. Not an object, but a state of being. A word that implies stasis, inaction, a desire to change but inability to do so.

I always wondered how that, of all things, was the most useful thing to start communicating about. How often did he get stuck in things? Was this a baby in a constant existential crisis? Did he have a concept of being unstuck, free, or was life defined purely in negative values?

Right now we are all stuck, in one way or another. Today I’d like you to write about that for five minutes. Note that this writing is not for anyone else to see, it’s just to get your mind working, to explore ideas you might otherwise not find. The only rule is that you keep writing the whole time, and don’t worry about the quality of your writing. After five minutes a sound will play, and I’ll give you a few seconds to recompose, and we’ll start the second writing exercise.

[5 minutes]

Great! How was that? Anything unexpected? Any twists and turns? Did it make you feel constrained, or free?

If you’d like to share any of what you wrote, or your reflections, please leave a voicemail – there’s a link in the show notes. Hopefully you got something out of it.

Now we’re doing the same again, with the opposite concept: free. Write for 5 minutes about being free: you could list times you felt the freest, places you associate with freedom, a time you got a free lunch - anything. Write fiction, or write things that have happened. Above all, keep that pen moving for the whole 5 minutes. Are you ready? Let’s go!


Two 5-minute free-writing exercises. Write on a blank piece of paper, in whatever language you feel most comfortable with, on the subjects of:

  • Your daily life
  • “Stuck”


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