Dr. Judith M. Newman



On Freewriting

[ Journal Entry ]

Here’s how Peter Elbow describes freewriting:

The idea is simply to write for ten minutes (later on, perhaps fifteen or twenty). Don’t stop for anything. Go quickly without rushing. Never stop to look back, to cross something out, to wonder how to spell something, to wonder what word or thought to use, or to think about what you are doing. If you can’t think of a word or a spelling, just use a squiggle or else write, “I can’t think of it.” Just put down something. The easiest thing is just to put down whatever is in your mind. If you get stuck it’s fine to write “I can’t think what to say, I can’t think what to say” as many times as you want; or repeat the last word your wrote over and over again; or anything else. The only requirement is that you never stop.

Later, when he discusses writing fast, Elbow talks about doing some summing up at the end of the freewrite. It’s useful, after you’ve done ten minutes of freewriting, to take a moment to ask yourself “So what?” Can I summarize what I’ve been writing about in a sentence or two? What did I learn from having done this writing? What stands out for me.

You’ll find often, but not always, that having written quickly you can now identify what you’ve been writing about, even though you didn’t know when you started out.