FREEWRITING – Peter Elbow
“The most effective way I know to improve your writing is to do freewriting exercises regularly. At least three times a week. They are sometimes called ‘automatic writing,’ ‘babbling,’ or ‘jabbering’ exercises. The idea is simply to write for ten minutes (later on, perhaps fifteen or twenty). Don’t stop for anything” (Elbow).
Peter Elbow is an English Professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Until 2010, he was the head of their Writing Program. With this excerpt from his book titled Writing Without Teachers, Elbow expresses the immense importance on a concept called free-writing. Essentially, what free-writing actually involves is writing for a certain period of time (he suggests tens to twenty minutes), not taking a moment to stop. If you do not know what to say, just write out random words until a thought comes to mind. One of the main outcomes to free-writing is to overcome the need to edit as we produce. “The main thing about freewriting is that it is nonediting. It is an exercise in bringing together the process of producing words and putting them down on the page. Practiced regularly, it undoes the ingrained habit of editing at the same time you are trying to produce. It will make writing less blocked because words will come more easily” (Elbow).
I learned the importance of free-writing in one of my classes this semester (Writing in Expressivist Tradition). My classmates and I are often encouraged to use this tactic to practice our writing ability. Plus, it is fun in itself! I tend to start out with something extremely sloppy in the first few minutes, until it picks up. I lose myself in the entire writing process, starting to come to my own thoughts at a fast pace. I do not worry about my mistakes; I do not have the time. I am writing in its purest form. Free-writing is a way to express yourself as a creative individual, and I would highly recommend it! This method works extremely well when drafting for a paper that you are completely stuck on as it allows you to come to your own thoughts without too much pressure. Mistakes are allowed!
How does free-writing relate back to the culture of writing?
To me, writing culture is partially defined by many of the tactics and genres within it. In this circumstance, I consider anything that encourages someone to practice/improve their writing ability an extremely beneficial aspect to writing culture, as it teaches the new generation how to carry it into the future.