Re: Freewriting

Beth W. Baldwin, PhD (
Wed, 24 Jul 1996 08:21:06 -0400

On Tue, 23 Jul 1996 wrote:

> My post ... it's so difficult to tell ... as we alllllll have at one time
> or another known or experienced ... what and how something is being said
> ... was not meant to substract from the discussion or to find fault with
> it, but to raise a question about the value of being intro"spective".

I don't find your contributions to this conversation in the least bit flip
(writing as expensive vs free) nor do I think they subtract from it. I
think that they're quite valid as a matter of fact.

For me, *one* important outcome of this discussion would be that we could
in"spect" other issues about writing pedagogy beyond "how to" issues. For
me, *how* I do something really does follow my answer to *why* I do
something. So, if I am teaching a class in writing the personal essay,
*why* I teach that class is because students are there to learn an
aesthetic practice for personal pleasure, maybe leading to publication.
Then, I'd seek approaches in *many* of the conventional how-tos.

If I'm asked to teach composition, however, the "why" is quite different.
Students are not there, in general, to learn something as a pleasurable
practice. There are actually many "why" answers for comp students. I
generally turn to the philosophies of our comp program itself. In our
case, we don't teach comp so that students can learn for pleasure only or
for academic purposes only (how to write a paper for your college
classes), but rather to learn good rhetorical practice. With the the
"why" (in my case), "how" does not seem to follow from conventional
how-tos since so many conventional how-tos lead invariably to an essay of
some sort.

So . . .

> Though retrospective protocols will continue to
> be given and found as problematic, all protocols are problematic!

. . . which is precisely my experience. And often the problem arises
because it's really impossible to generalize (especially when you start
doing things like taking into account personality type -- which you really
must do).

> I just want to write. Yes, there is a pun there. Writing, for me, should
> be not just an ethical act but a political one.

These are good starts on answering "why." I surely hope that no one
thinks that just because I ask "why teach writing" that I'm implying that
we should not teach writing. This is far from the truth for me. Someone
sent me a private post indicating that this was exactly what was being

It was also suggested that the "why" question is valid only if
the answer to the "can it be done" question is "no." I completely
disagree with this. Remember the question "why climb a mountain" --
surely that's a valid question to ask even after we now know that climbing
a mountain is indeed possible. Still, how one would go about climbing the
mountain would depend upon the answer one gives to "why."

> And so, instead of thinking, except for amusement .)>= , I just write!

So, if *why* you write is because it's a substitute for thinking (and I
assume what you mean here is an inner speech kind of mentation vs some
outward manifestation of that same act of mentation), *how* you do it
wouldn't necessarily be described in conventional how-tos.

In short (although I'm sure this has been anything but short, I still
think the "why" question has value.

Beth Baldwin, Ph.D. *
Office of Continuing Education *
University of North Carolina at Greensboro *
Greensboro, NC 27412-5001 *
910-334-5140 *