Day 4 is about free-writing. This is definitely something that I need to work on. I know how to do it, but I have a hard time applying it. So what is free-writing? It is when you just write. You don’t stop to fix spelling or punctuation. You don’t go back to edit a thought. If you have a thought that should go two sentences back, just write it right where you are. The editing process comes after you have your word count. Because I don’t free-write, I lose track of my thought process and have to go back and re-read what I wrote. When I re-read a piece, I end up wanting to fix it because I have come up with a better way to say it. And then again I have lost my train of thought. It really can be a never-ending cycle that can cause you to waste time, get frustrated, and not get anywhere.
I was first introduced to free-writing my sophomore year in college. I took an advanced English grammar and composition class. The instructor had us do 15 minute free-writes every night for homework. We could choose any topic, but we had to write for 15 minutes straight. No stopping. We were required to get 3 pages in those 15 minutes. At first it was tough, but with practice (just like anything else) it got easier. And he didn’t even care if you stayed on topic – I don’t think he even read the papers – he just wanted you to write and get 3 pages. Those damn 3 pages! As much as I hated that class, I learned a lot.
I need to challenge myself, like my instructor did, to get so many pages done in a certain amount of time. The last few days, I have had the television on while I was writing, and it was so distracting. So, this morning I jumped on my computer as soon as I got up – before I turned the television on. I am sitting here listening to Idina Menzel and typing away like a mad woman. It is amazing how much more you can get done when you aren’t distracted. This is one step in the right direction. I cannot say that I write these 500 words strictly free-write, because I didn’t. I did find myself going back and editing pieces, but it was much better than yesterday.
Free-writing is something that I try to help my students with. They are so afraid that what they put on paper is there permanently. I don’t think I have really talked about what I do for work – though I have mentioned that I have students. I am an English teacher for Adult Education. I teach adults who want to go back to college, but for different reasons have been out of school for a long time. I work with them to bring up their reading and writing skills. I was one of those students who waited until the last minute to write papers – especially the last year and a half. So, I didn’t have time to write rough drafts! I learned to edit as I wrote, and it served me well all through college. Mostly. However, it has definitely crippled my ability to free-write. Each day of this challenge I am looking at myself, and the more I think about my own struggles, the more I realize how important it is for me to stress to my students the importance of these writing tips (even if they aren’t going to be an English major – they are going to have to write). Well, it has been 30 minutes, and I have 586 words. WAY better than yesterday’s two hours! Now I can take a couple minutes and go edit.