Free-Thinking, Free-Wheeling, Free-Writing

“Freewriting may seem crazy but actually it makes simple sense. Think of the difference between speaking and writing. Writing has the advantage of permitting more editing. But that’s its downfall too. Almost everyone interposes a massive and complicated series of editings between the time the words start to be born into consciousness and when they finally come of the end of the pencil or typewriter onto the page. This is partly because schooling makes us obsessed with the “mistakes” we make in writing. Many people constantly think about spelling and grammar as they try to write. I am always thinking about the awkwardness, wordiness, and general mushiness of my natural verbal product as I try to write down words.

“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. . . .

“The habit of compulsive, premature editing doesn’t just make writing hard. It also makes writing dead. Your voice is damped out by all the interruptions, changes, and hesitations between the consciousness and the page. In your natural way of producing words there is a sound, a texture, a rhythm—a voice—which is the main source of power in your writing. I don’t know how it works, but this voice is the force that will make a reader listen to you. Maybe you don’t like your voice; maybe people have made fun of it. But it’s the only voice you’ve got. It’s your only source of power. You better get back into it, no matter what you think of it. If you keep writing in it, it may change into something you like better. But if you abandon it, you’ll likely never have a voice and never be heard.”

Taken from Writing Without Teachers. New York: Oxford UP, 1973, 1-7.

__________

Freewriting Assignment #1 (in-class)

Freewrite for 10 minutes about how you feel about sitting in this class right now. You’ve heard a bit about what we’re going to be doing in this course. I’d like to know your initial thoughts. Look around you: there are a lot people you’ve never met before, yet I am asking you to develop a community together with each and every one of them. What are your fears about sharing your inner thoughts with complete strangers? What are your concerns about sharing your feelings about your cultural experiences and opinions with them? With me? How do you feel about your writing instruction up to this point? Notice that you are writing while writing about writing. On your mark . . . get set . . .

Feedback/Assessment: group discussion and peer response; you will be asked to share as much as you are comfortable and you will not be graded on your writing. Participation credit will be given for handing in something of genuine quality and participating in discussion/response.

Objective:

  1. I and your classmates would like to learn about you
  2. I would like to know what you want from this course, and let that be known to the group
  3. I would like to understand your cultural experiences and opinions because, let’s face it, this is personal and I’m looking to break the ice from the very start if we are going to have productive conversations.

Genre: N/A

Components:  thoughts and feelings, fears and concerns—as represented by the written word

  1. What about this class sounds interesting to you?
  2. What has been your exposure to/experience with cultural studies?
  3. What is one thing you would like to get out of this class?
  4. What is one thing about this class that you are afraid of? (for example: exams, papers, diverse viewpoints, respect, etc.)

Logistics:

  1. Length: freewrite for 10 minutes
  2. Use whatever media you feel most comfortable using (for example: laptop, handwritten, etc.)
  3. Use whatever form you feel most comfortable using (for example: lists, letters, pictures [as long as they have word descriptors], etc.)
  4. Group discussion and hand in to instructor at the end of the class for participation credit

. . . Go!

__________

Freewriting assignment #2 (in-class)

Freewrite for 10 minutes about an offensive cultural opinion you recently witnessed or experienced.

Them’s the “Components:” of your freewriting assignment #2; same objective and logistics as above.

__________

Freewriting Assignment #3 (in-class)

“Be the change you want to see in the world.” Mahatma Gandhi

Freewrite for 10 minutes about how you want to change the world. Dig deep. What is one injustice that gets under your skin? Politics? Sex? Religion? Racism?

More than just a rant about how your topic effects you (though there’s room for that here, too—if for nothing more than to get those creative juices flowing), I’m looking for thoughtful solutions—even if they don’t seem realistic. Keep it non-violent. Remember you are a community.


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