Prewriting: Freewriting


Freewriting consists of focused but informal writing about the topic at hand. There are four important rules to this activity:

  • Write for a short, specified time (5, 10, 15 minutes).
  • Keep your hand moving. Don't stop writing until the time is up. If you're having trouble finding the right word, draw a line and keep going, or use a less than perfect word in its stead: you can always go back and fix it later. If you can't think of anything to say, just keep writing you last word, or your name, or "I'm stuck" over and over again: the words will come.
  • Turn off the internal editor, the one who tells you to go back and dot that "i" and cross that "t," tells you that this or that idea is stupid, or tells you that you've just written a run-on sentence or fragment.
  • When the specified time is up, go back over the text and circle the surprises and draw arrows connecting ideas or themes: identify those passages/ideas/phrases that should carry over into your text.

Follow the writing; find out what you have to say by just saying it (on paper). Feel free to change topics or areas of focus, but try to follow the writing where it wants to go. Trust yourself and your writing.

  • Pros: Freewriting is a terrific memory stimulator. This activity reminds you of what we already know and helps you to make connections you might not otherwise make. It helps you to get past the sterile, static, surface responses so that you can burn through to the insightful and fresh "meat" of what you really want to say.
  • Cons: Freewriting is a time-consuming activity and does not guarantee brilliant results. It is possible to achieve only a clear idea of what you don't want to write.

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Axelrod, Rise B., and Charles R. Cooper. The Concise Guide to Writing. NY: St. Martin's, 1993.

Meyer, Emily, and Louise Z. Smith. The Practical Tutor. NY: Oxford UP, 1987.


Updated: 08.16.07