Wednesday, 21 February 2007

In praise of freewriting

I’ve been freewriting for quite a long time without knowing that freewriting is what it’s called. In fact, for a long time all of my writing was freewriting, unpolished and grasshopperish. Later, I began to see that there was quite a difference between the work of writers I esteemed and my rather more spontaneous outpourings. It appeared that the process of writing required two different levels of engagement: generativity and refinement. Here, we’re at the generativity stage, so I feel I have carte blanche to blether away as I see fit. At this point, every idea is a good idea.

Freewriting can either have a focus or none at all. It has only one real requirement, which is to keep writing without pause for a predetermined period of time. It’s a bit like being in the ocean, watching your thoughts form and then trying to set them down as they gather momentum then pass and break. In my experience the early morning, just after waking, is the best time for a bit of a freewrite. I did the one on the Wiki late at night, which was different but also had that familiar feeling of ebb and flow.

There are obvious and subtle benefits to this practice, I find. Really good ideas can come out of it, pegs on which to hang further research and thinking. But also, if you ever sit down to work and find yourself distracted by a background mutter of thinking and judgement (“oh, psychology is so difficult, why didn’t I listen to my careers teacher and become a dog groomer instead, there’s a funny smell in this library…” etc), freewriting can act as purgative to cleanse the mind and limber it up for study. If you’ve not tried it before, have a go. You’ll be both amazed at your creativity and amused by the daftness of what emerges, and surprised by how calm and energized you feel afterwards.

Just as a footnote, I’d like to add that when I began training as a writing mentor I learned that the term freewriting was coined by the eminent writing teacher Peter Elbow. He too recognizes that to create a piece of writing it’s necessary to go through two contrasting phases. For me, reading Elbow prompted a big existential exhalation. If you’re interested in the experience of writing, you’ll probably enjoy his books.

12 comments:

Pete said...

Did Peter Elbow actually coin the phrase "freewriting"? If it wasn't him, does anyone know who did come up with this wonderful expression? Elbow is certainly one of its most persuasive advocates, and I envy the students to whom he introduced the joys of freewriting? Perhaps some of them are reading this blog... And I would love to hear other people say what freewriting means to them.

becky said...

As I mentioned in one of my posts before, I have heard of the concept of freewriting but never actually seen any develop in this way. I find it an absolutely fascinating process that allows the writer to truly unleash their thoughts. In many ways it is also a confidence boosting exercise as students realise how much they actually know about a subject.I will definitely be giving this a go!

becky said...

I hate to swamp your discussion board but I thought I would tell you about my attempt at freewriting. I read on the internet that you can either write or type and to save me having to type it up later I decided to type it, this was a big mistake. I found that I was constantly watching the red and green, grammar and spelling lines and felt a constant need to edit and correct my work. Compared to writing with pen and paper typing is actually rather unpleasant and puts me off writing altogether. Can I ask did you write your freewrite or type it?

Pete said...

becky - I think that Peter Elbow says somewhere that he sometimes freewrites at the compputer with the monitor turned off. That would solve the problem, but you would need to be an accurate typer. I prefer to freewrite by hand - there's no delete button, for one thing!

Lynn said...

Hi Becky, it's excellent that you're having a go at freewriting and sharing your experience with us. This is just what makes this project so rewarding for me. Usually I'm with Pete on this; I freewrite by hand and with a special pencil that smells really nice, particularly when it's just been sharpened. It goes, "shh shh shh shh" on the paper - lovely!

This time round, for the first time ever, I did my freewrite by computer (and recorded it in realtime - you can replay it at http://www.phoca.net/freudfreewrite1/freudfreewrite1.html). It was, as you say, offputting. I managed to just about stay in the flow, helped by the fact that I was very tired, and proof of this is the nice collection of typos in the text. But yes, I do associate using the computer with doing later drafts of my work, so the experience was a bit different.

Perhaps we'd lose the urge to correct if we followed the advice of novelist Ludwig Borne, given to Freud:
"Take a few sheets of paper and for three days on end write down, without fabrication or hypocrisy, everything that comes into your head. Write down what you think of yourself, of your wife, of the Turkish War, of Goethe, of Fonk's trial, of the Last Judgement, of your superiors - and when three days have passed you will be quite out of your senses with astonishment at the new and unheard-of thoughts you have had."

See you Sunday ;-)

buy wow gold said...

When the Wow Gold wolf finally found the Buy Wow Goldhole in the chimney he crawled wow gold cheap down and KERSPLASH right into that kettle of water and that was cheapest wow gold the end of his troubles with the big bad wolf.

game4power,buy cheap wow goldWOW GOLDThe next day the cheap wow gold buy gold wow little pig invited his mother over . She said "You see it is just as I told you. The way to wow goldget along in the world is to do world of warcraft gold things as well as you can." Fortunately for that little pig, he cheapest wow gold learned that lesson. And he just lived happily ever after!

Anonymous said...

Worth sharing this information. Good Work
essays | Research Writing

gaohui said...

The holidays are a time ed hardy of getting together with friends ed hardy shoes and family, attending elaborate ed hardy clothing parties, and other exciting events ed hardy clothes that involves dressing up in stunning ed hardy store wardrobes. If you ed hardy Bikini are pregnant during ed hardy swimsuits the holidays, it does not ed hardy Caps mean that you are unable buy ed hardy to look fabulous and ed hardy swimwear stylish. Now, an expectant ed hardy sale mother has many styles of chic ed hardy glasses maternity clothing that allows cheap ed hardy her to show off her baby bump Christian audigier while looking spectacular.

dte said...

At twenty years of age, the will reigns; at thirty, the wit; and at forty, the judgment gw2 gold, what gets us into trouble is not what we don't know.It's what we know for sure that just ain't so gw2 gold, life is like a hot bath. It feels good while you're in it, but the longer you stay in, the more wrinkled you get gw2 gold.

dte said...

You have a forever friend for life, and forever has no end D3 Gold Sale, and if you find such a friend, you feel happy and complete, because you need not worry Diablo iii Gold, your forever friend holds your hand and tells you that everything is going to be okay Buy Diablo iii Gold.

fdhty said...

Labor vanquishes all---not inconstant , spasmodic, or ill-directed labor; but sell rift gold faithful, unremitting, daily effort toward sell rift plat a well-directed purpose. Just as truly as eternal vigilance is sell rift gold the price of liberty, so is eternal industry the price of noble and enduring success.



Three passions, simple but overwhelmingly sell guild wars 2 eu gold strong, have governed my life: the longing for love, the search for sell gw2 eu gold knowledge, These passions, like great winds, have blown me hither and thither, in a wayward course, over a deep sell guild wars 2 eu gold  ocean of anguish, reaching to the very verge of despair.

fdhty said...

Love and knowledge, so far as they sell gw2 eu gold were possible, led upward sell guild wars 2 eu gold  toward the heavens. But always it brought me sell gw2 eu gold back to earth. Echoes of cries of pain reverberate in my heart.