Freewriting

What is it?

Freewriting is fast writing, composed generally for the writer and not for other readers. Freewriting is a quick and efficient way for a writer to get onto paper what he or she already knows, and often to discover a connection or two which hadn't earlier been part of consciousness.

How is it done?

A freewriting session typically lasts from three to twelve minutes. Very often freewriting begins with a focus — sometimes simply a topic, such as "senior citizens," or sometimes an assertion ("Senior citizens affect the economy in several positive ways"). Focusing on the topic or assertion, student writers then write with the guidance of three don'ts: don’t stop; don't censor; and don't go back.

Why is it done?

Since one goal of freewriting is to retrieve as much prior knowledge as possible, writers are encouraged to force words on to a page by not stopping. Since another goal is to uncover connections which the writer might not previously have realized, writers are instructed to "follow their ideas wherever they may lead," and not to cut a thought in mid-flight because it initially seems inappropriate or irrelevant.

Finally, since freewriting is writing for the writer, writers are encouraged not to edit, not to worry about spelling, not to worry about "mistakes" — in other words, not to go back and "fix" their writing — because it is not intended for others to read.

What do students do with their freewriting?

Ideally, freewriting is for the writer's eyes only. But many teachers give their students the opportunity to volunteer to read or even exchange pieces of freewriting.

Some of the many possible uses for freewriting include:

  • use as a prelude to discussion
  • use as a postlude to discussion
  • use as a postlude to reading
  • use as an ice-breaker
  • use as a beginning-of-class activity
  • use as a capstone for a class.

Examples of Freewriting Use at UH Mānoa

200-Level Art class (Lecturer Laura Ruby)

100-Level Linguistics class (Professor Iovanna Condax)

100-Level Sociology (Professor Michael Weinstein)

200-Level Nursing (Professor Ruth Uyechi)

For a discussion of other, related writing-to-learn activities see the Mānoa Writing Program's Writing Activities to Get Students Thinking and Learning and also Teaching with Journals.