Re: Freewriting

Marcy Bauman (marcyb@UMD.UMICH.EDU)
Tue, 23 Jul 1996 10:03:11 -0400

I must confess, I haven't been following this thread very closely, so
I'll have to take Jane's summary of what people said rather than what
everyone said individually as the basis for what I want to add . . . but
it sounds like people more or less said that the amount of revision they
do is in direct proportion to the pressure they feel their audience
exerting on their words. If what we're writing is a letter to a friend
(who presumably udnerstands what we're going to say, based on a long &
varied knowledge of us as persons), there's no need to revise. If it's
an article going out, we might revise a bit more. We revise just enough
to get the job done. That's pretty consistent with my practice, anyway.

I think that what our students sometimes lack is that sense that the
_reason_ you revise is to make things clearer to your reader; they often
don't have a lot of experience at second-guessing what a reader is likely
not to understand. I think they need more experience having their work
read, not with revision. For that reason, (*deep breath, big confession*)
I've just about abandoned teaching "the writing process" at all. Instead
I try to create situation where people encounter readers who agree,
disagree, and/or challenge what the writer has said.

I bumbled on to an activity last semester that worked _extremely_ well in
that regard. On the day that drafts were due, I had everyone read as
many as they could in the two-hour class period. Instead of offering any
kind of formal response to the writers, they essentially "inkshedded" the
drafts -- they underlined stuff they agreed with, or wrote marginal
questions or short one-line refutations ("But what about X?"), which they
initialed. The point was to respond to _content_, not style; I also
wanted people to have their papers read by as many people as possible,
and for it to be relatively easy for people to respond. (Lengthy
responses tend to get perfunctory, I've noticed.)

Then, after people's drafts were responded to, I met with them in
conference. I asked them about the patterns of the responses they got,
and if there were any that were troublesome to them. We talked about how
what people had written might be an indicator of what they had & hadn't
understood in the paper. Lots of, "Why do you think she made that
comment?" kinds of questions. I was _really_ pleased with the results of
these conferences. People were thinking up revisio strategies based on
what the evidence told them they had & hadn't gotten across to their
readers, not on some vague notion about how to make the paper "better."


Marcy Bauman
Writing Program
University of Michigan-Dearborn
4901 Evergreen Rd.
Dearborn, MI 48128

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