Before I started writing my dissertation, I found that freewrites were about the only way I could accomplish anything tangible. I did a lot of reading and a lot of thinking, and the freewrites allowed me to record my thoughts a couple of times a day (on a good day). I did very little re-reading of this writing–but the act of writing helped keep me moving.

Some people are proponents of the “write without letting your pencil leave the page until the timer rings” freewriting method. I got along better when I had a specific topic (a book I’d just read) and simply tried to type quickly until I ran out of steam — usually around ten minutes. I let myself pause instead of making myself write “I don’t know what to write” because I found that if I wrote continuously, a bunch of complaining would seep into the writing that was actually not emotionally helpful to put on paper.

Once I started researching my specific chapters (instead of the general reading I did at first), I stopped needed freewrites so much–I typed notes about my sources (with any additional dissertation thoughts, related or unrelated, in parentheses). And I typed my chapters. But I didn’t need to do the free-form, no-planned-direction type of writing for a least a couple of years.

All the sudden, with a complete draft of my dissertation done, I find myself turning to freewriting again at the advice of my Dissertation Support Group. And I’m reminded that freewrites can be good for getting unstuck any time. At the very least, some writing is happening.

I never want to freewrite–I always want to do the “actual” writing that other people will see as part of the dissertation document. But even at this late stage, sometimes I really don’t see another way to get the project moving.


2 responses to “Freewrites

  1. I have found free writing/rush writing useful at times, but recently in trying to build up momentum to finish my MA report, I found they weren’t really cutting it. I tended to get too personal in them, which means a bit of that complaining you mentioned would seep in, but I have found that I wouldn’t take the time to be very articulate about the actual thinking–said in another way, I wasn’t writing for an audience outside of myself. I have found blogging to be a good in between for that. The audience is totally fictional of course, and I have no idea if anyone has read anything, and I don’t really care, but it works. The amount of words ends up being pretty similar, it’s a bit more time, but I feel like the thinking is deeper, slicker, and it’s helping me find a workable voice.

    Anyway, I’ve been reading you for a while now, since I got the EGGS email about CRWL presentation you did. You’ve really helped me push through and get my MA done, well, I’m almost done, but I’m not longer unsure of whether I can finish it. So THANKS! and keep it up!

  2. Jill Anderson

    Go queen of freewrites! It was great to talk tonight, and I am already looking forward to checking in for reals on Monday morning.

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