How to Jumpstart Your Writing Study Guide (page 2)
How to Jumpstart Your Writing
True ease in writing comes from art, not chance, As those move easiest who have learn'd to dance. - ALEXANDER POPE (1688–1744) ENGLISH POET
This lesson teaches you how to do freewriting, a highly effective way of getting started on your assignments. This lesson provides another technique experienced writers use to help them jumpstart the writing process. Don't for a minute think that you are alone, as a young writer, in fearing the blank page. Every writer encounters the same preliminary fears, and every writer uses whatever tricks are available to get over the hurdle and into the writing task at hand.
Writing Isn't Quite as challenging or nearly as dangerous as climbing Mount Everest; it only feels that way. And just as serious climbers have to train on smaller mountains, writers often warm up by doing practice writing sessions, called freewriting.
Freewriting is the practice of writing continuously (usually in a timed session of about five or ten minutes), without delays to correct spelling, grammar, or sentence structure. If you get stuck and can't think of anything more to write, then you write about that ("I am stuck and can't think of anything else to write . . . and then oh, I thought of how I feel about. . . ."). Actually, freewriting can be understood as the written form of idle thinking, the kind of mind wandering you do when you're on the bus, or waiting to fall asleep, or trying not to pay attention to the boring conversation of the adults in the room.
In freewriting, you don't worry about staying on topic. Many find that it's easier to begin their freewriting with a topic, no matter how simple or vague, and then to let their writing take them anywhere. Once you're started writing, you let your mind (and your fingers) do the choosing. There is often an advantage to beginning your freewriting session with a certain focused topic. You may find yourself coming up with connections and ideas you wouldn't have come to had you been using some other planning technique before beginning a writing assignment.
If you don't already know how to touch type, which means typing quickly without looking at the keys, learn how! Touch typing is every writer's favorite skill. Being able to type quickly will make your writing better, because you won't lose your train of thought while you're hunting and pecking, and revising your work is much easier when you aren't fumbling around.
Ask your parents to buy a learn-to-type software program, with which you can teach yourself touch typing on the computer, or enroll in a typing class at school. Touch typing is not only a skill that you'll be grateful for your whole life, but it's also fun—it's like being able to sing and ride your bike at the same time.
Here's a sample of freewriting done by a student preparing to write a school essay about The Influence of Television on My Life. Note that the freewriting veers off the subject occasionally, but that the student manages to come up with several ideas that might be reorganized into specific examples and relevant points for the finished essay.
Does freewriting appeal to you more as a useful technique now that you see a sample of it?
I am really stuck trying to think of what to write about this topic, because television is a really important part of everybody life. Think of the war, we see it everyday on tv and then there are elections and politics and the government and the topic seems so big that I think the teacher wants to bad mouth television because she is always trying to get us to read books instead of watching tv so I thitkn this assignment is mostly to get us to say that we watch too mcuh television. The influence of television is really great, that's for sure. Think of how we get out news I don't read the papers and my parents don't even subscribe to a newspaper because when they did the papers would just pile up and no one had time in busy lifes to sit down and read all that detailed stuff that was not so important really and that is another reason that tv is very important because it becomes a way for all of us to learn things that we wouldn't kno if we dindt watch tv. And theirs also the entertainment factor. Plus baby sitting. When I was little me and my brother watchd sesame street and I can remember even lerning stuff from that show that I still know. So maybe what I should write about is all the good things from tv and not try to suck up to the teacher and say that ttv is bad for us cause I think that is what she wants to hear in this paper.
What Is Prewriting?
Some writers refer to the technique of freewriting as prewriting because they do it every day as a routine preparation for their day's writing work. Technically, prewriting is more focused on a specific topic. It can be defined as the very first, before-the-first-draft, writing that you do for an assignment. The freewriting student sample above might well be identified by many as prewriting because it was written in response to a specific assignment. Whether you use the term prewriting or freewriting, you're doing approximately the same thing. It's like stretching before a run, or throwing a few pitches before the game begins.
Keeping A Diary or A Journal
Many writers, and many students who have not yet begun to identify themselves as writers, keep a diary or a journal. In fact, the practice of keeping a journal has now become a verb: to journal. Journaling does not have to be a daily practice, but many people find that writing a little (or a lot) every day helps them in numerous ways.
- Journaling provides a place to record private thoughts that the writer doesn't feel comfortable sharing with others.
- Journaling is often prescribed by doctors who find that writing helps people get through physical or emotional problems they are experiencing.
- Journaling is a good way to vent. Better to yell at someone in your private journal than to yell at them in person.
- Journaling helps writers improve their craft. "Practice makes perfect," just as your mother may have told you.
- Journaling provides a good place for warehousing an inventory of ideas you'd like to write about someday. This is perhaps the most common writer's use of journaling. Ideas for future poems, stories, and essays can be recorded in the journal and kept there for future reference and development.
What About Blogs?
A blog is a relatively recent invention that originated on the Internet. The word blog is what's called a portmanteau word. (Portmanteau is a French word for suitcase; in this context, a portmanteau is a word that fuses two words into a new word with its own meaning.) The portmanteau word blog is created by combining web and log. Thus, a blog is actually an online diary or journal.
Blogs consist of short Internet posts on a single topic (for example, politics, music, sports, and so on), and they usually contain links to other blogs or web pages. Some blogs are strictly personal, and constitute a private journal that the writer is willing for the world to read. Many blogs allow readers to comment interactively.
The blog format allows the writer to write more or less informally, because blog entries are not expected to be formal essays on a specific topic. Instead, the writer is putting his or her immediate thoughts out on the Internet and inviting readers to join the conversation. While blogs are not technically identical to freewriting, they often read that way because of their immediacy. Interestingly, some television commentators are now blogging while they are on the air, and inviting viewers to interact via the Internet while simultaneously watching the television show. Have any of your favorite shows done this yet? Voting for American Idol doesn't count, although it is a related type of simultaneous interaction with a television broadcast.
Researchers estimate that there are more than 150 million blogs currently on the Internet. Do you read (or write) any of them?
Practice: Freewriting Exercise
Now try freewriting on your own. Set your kitchen timer for three minutes and do freewriting on the topic Learning How to Write Better. See what you come up with.
You may write here, on a separate piece of paper, or on your computer. Choose the place that will encourage you to write most freely.
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