Northcentral University Writing Center

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Writing Center



Freewriting means exactly what is says: writing on the topic without stopping or editing. The goal is not to produce good writing, but freewriting will eventually lead the writer toward good writing. Freewriting is the best way to tap into the unconscious thoughts within the mind. Rather than figuring out what to write, freewriting helps the writer discover what thinking has already been done about the topic, both consciously and unconsciously. Freely transferring all of these random, conscious and unconscious ideas to the page allows the writer to think more clearly and to better see all of the ideas pertaining to a topic. And once these ideas have been transferred to the page, the writer is better able to translate these ideas into formal, academic language, determining what topics and claims can be explored and narrowed into a viable working thesis.


To achieve the full benefits of freewriting, here are some basic guidelines for the writer to follow:


1.       Don’t stop writing. Keep the pen to the page or keep the hands typing on the keys. The single objective in freewriting is to write without stopping for the full time allotted (ten minutes). That’s it. Don’t pause to reread the previous line; just keep writing or typing without taking any time to analyze what’s being written. Also, write in full sentences when possible to avoid slipping in to a list format (Brainstorming).

2.       Don’t cross out or delete. Resist the temptation to edit while writing. Even if something is written that was not intended, leave it. At the pre-writing stage, imperfection is the writer’s friend, and perfection is the enemy.

3.       Don’t worry about spelling, punctuation, or grammar. Resist the temptation to edit. The objective is to produce raw material, not to revise or correct the material.

4.       Lose control. Avoid the instinct to take control. The process of writing is recursive, moving through various cycles and development. Don’t worry about clarifying meaning or organizing a thought ahead of time. It’s too early in the writing process to assume what is known or understood and how an idea should be communicated or phrased in writing.

5.       Don’t think and don’t get logical. Let the words and ideas spill to the page. Don’t worry about writing off-topic or going off on tangents unrelated to the topic. Wandering is okay. Write down all ideas. Wandering off topic may lead the topic in a new direction that would otherwise be missed. There will be plenty of time later to analyze and sort out the best ideas from everything else on the page.    


Once the writer has completed a freewriting exercise, an inventory of all ideas can be done. Some writers may prefer to create an outline of the best ideas from the freewrite (see What Works Best: Outlining or Writing?), while others may prefer to continue with a focused freewriting exercise (see Focused Freewriting) or one or many of the other Pre-writing strategies discussed in this section of the NCU Writing Center. Additionally, writers are also encouraged to visit the Writing Centers at Colorado, Purdue, and Chapel Hill. Either way, the writer may find that freewriting is the best way to discover ideas and move toward good writing.