When you find these gems, highlight them or cut and paste them into your draft or onto an “ideas” sheet so you can use them in your paper.Even if you don’t find any diamonds in there, you will have either quieted some of the noisy chaos or greased the writing gears so that you can now face the assigned paper topic.It should, at least, give you a broader awareness of the topic’s complexities, if not a sharper focus on what you will do with it.
The crucial point is that you keep on writing even if you believe you are saying nothing. Your freewriting might even look like this: “This paper is supposed to be on the politics of tobacco production but even though I went to all the lectures and read the book I can’t think of what to say and I’ve felt this way for four minutes now and I have 11 minutes left and I wonder if I’ll keep thinking nothing during every minute but I’m not sure if it matters that I am babbling and I don’t know what else to say about this topic and it is rainy today and I never noticed the number of cracks in that wall before and those cracks remind me of the walls in my grandfather’s study and he smoked and he farmed and I wonder why he didn’t farm tobacco…” When you’re done with your set number of minutes or have reached your page goal, read back over the text.
Yes, there will be a lot of filler and unusable thoughts but there also will be little gems, discoveries, and insights.
Try out several of these options and challenge yourself to vary the techniques you rely on; some techniques might suit a particular writer, academic discipline, or assignment better than others.
If the technique you try first doesn’t seem to help you, move right along and try some others.
If you can’t think of what to say, you write that down—really.
The advantage of this technique is that you free up your internal critic and allow yourself to write things you might not write if you were being too self-conscious.
When you freewrite, you let your thoughts flow as they will, putting pen to paper and writing down whatever comes into your mind.
You don’t judge the quality of what you write and you don’t worry about style or any surface-level issues, like spelling, grammar, or punctuation.
When you freewrite you can set a time limit (“I’ll write for 15 minutes!
”) and even use a kitchen timer or alarm clock or you can set a space limit (“I’ll write until I fill four full notebook pages, no matter what tries to interrupt me! You might do this on the computer or on paper, and you can even try it with your eyes shut or the monitor off, which encourages speed and freedom of thought.