“Freewriting is similar to brainstorming but is written in sentence and paragraph form without stopping. Thus, it . . .
- increases the flow of ideas and reduces the chance that you’ll accidentally censor a good idea.
- helps to increase fluency second-language learners—i.e., the ability to produce written language easily (as opposed to accuracy, which is of course important but which is better addressed later in the process).
As in brainstorming,
- DO write down every idea you can think of about your topic, no matter how “crazy”; you can judge later! (And no one else is going to see it)
- DON’T worry about correct grammar or spelling;
Unlike in brainstorming,
- DO write in sentence and paragraph form;
- DO KEEP YOUR HANDS MOVING. If you can’t think of anything, just keep repeating your subject (e.g., “busy trap, busy trap”) or something like “I’m waiting for ideas to come and they will, I’m waiting for ideas to come and they will,” over and over until they do come. (They will!);
- DO feel free to use an occasional word from your native language if you can’t think of the English word, but don’t overdo this;
- DO keep going for 15 or 20 minutes or until you feel you have enough to start to build your paper or research on.
- NOTE: In Peter Elbow’s original formulation of Freewriting, designed to generate not only ideas but even a topic, the writer writes for a few minutes, chooses one idea or word from that freewriting and then freewrites about that new topic for several minutes, and then repeats that process again, successively refining their topic. This process can be a useful one if you are truly starting from scratch and are not even sure what you want to write your paper about.” (Freewriting: Peter Elbow)
“The consequence [of writing] is that you must start by writing the wrong meanings in the wrong words; but keep writing until you get to the right meanings in the right words. Only in the end will you know what you are saying.” (Peter Elbow)
How to begin Freewriting
To begin Freewriting commit to 15 minutes of continuous and uninterrupted activity every day. Additional minutes can be added if needed.
To begin the Freewriting Activity go to your chosen work space and set a timer for 5 minutes. I use Google Assistant on my Smartphone to time events simply because it is fun. With pen, paper or keyboard ready, begin to write. Write everything that enters your mind continuously without editing. Don’t lift the pen off the paper or let the keyboard be silent. The 5 minutes will pass quickly and the sound of the timer will always be a surprise. Stop writing when the timer sounds. Now, pick a topic of interest that you want to write about. The topic can be something you wrote during the first 5 minutes. Repeat the Freewriting Activity using the chosen topic. Write continuously for 5 minutes without editing. At the end of this 5 minutes period, you have a choice to continue the Freewriting Activity as many times as you desire or just crumple the paper into a ball and throw it into the nearby waste basket. Freewriting will relax your mind and give the editor living in your head a well deserved break. There is a time and place for editing but during Freewriting the editor needs to stop talking and sit quietly in the corner. If the Freewriting Activity produced a gem that needs closer examination then record it somewhere safe (notes written on the face of a napkin are not safe).
Make a commitment to practice every day.