Re: Freewriting

Nick Carbone (nickc@MARLBORO.EDU)
Mon, 22 Jul 1996 19:06:34 -0400

On Mon, 22 Jul 1996, Beth W. Baldwin, PhD wrote:

> To be honest, I love to freewrite but I rarely do it anymore.
> Furthermore, I rarely write or compose (for publication) in any kind
> of way I recommend to students. As much as I hate to admit it, I sit
> at the keyboard and compose as if what I'm composing is it, THE finished
> product. It being a finished product is, of course, rarely the case;
> I always end up doing lots of revising. It's just that I never really
> begin with revision in mind.

Part of what you're describing, Beth, to 'compose as if what [you're]
composing is it,' sounds exactly like how most of my students feel. Part
of the problem is 'writing process' labels: brainstorming, freewriting,
loop writing, invention, drafting revision, outlining, peer review,
editing, proof-reading and so on. It's an Adam and Eve thing--if we can
name, we can have dominion over. So a student hands in a paper and they
think it's done. I don't know all the time what they did to get the
paper to the point it's at. I've got students who can't sit down and
just write. I can't. Bores the heck out of me. I need real
compelling reasons to sit down and write. I also don't like to revise
much. I do of course, but only if I can go at least a few weeks between
drafts, sometimes more. Students don't usually have that much time to
spare in 13-15 week semester.

Courses don't provide a real writing experience. The 'writing process'
anyone of us teaches is in part a figment of what we imagine the process to
be, condensed and abridged; it is to real writing for real needs as Reader's
Digest Condensed books are to their originals. The fact that most of the
text books and rhetorics which claim to be premised on process are linear
(some even enumerate the steps, making process not organic so much as
mechanical) rather than recursive strikes me as particularly ironic.

At best I feel lucky if by enough blundering students can come to some
discovery, somehow, for themselves what their ow processes are. Given
that, I don't ever feel guilty about not practicing what I preach.
Students wouldn't necessarily be any better doing what I do, and lord
knows I won't be any better forcing myself to practice what I know
already not to work for me, even if I preach it as an option for students.

Nick Carbone, Writing Instructor
Marlboro College
Marlboro, VT 05344