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Online Writing Lab


Freewriting is one of the better techniques that writers can use early on in the process.  If you have an idea for a topic but aren’t sure whether it will work or not, one way to find out is through freewriting.  Additionally, if you know what your topic is (and perhaps even have a working thesis), you can come up with additional ideas and/or content for your essay through freewriting. 

Freewriting means what its name suggests: writing without constraint.  Too often, writers get self-conscious about writing and want everything to be perfect the first time.  The practice of freewriting eliminates these obstacles and allows a writer to generate creativity.

How it works:
With a possible essay topic or idea in mind, get out a pen and a piece of paper, and spend a set amount of time writing about this topic (5-10 minutes is a good timeframe).  Write down anything and everything that comes to mind, even if you don’t think it is useful or relatable.  Once you start, do not stop writing; do not criticize or edit what you have written; do not even read what you have written yet.  There will be plenty of time for editing and evaluating when you are finished.  For now, the idea is to get as much down on the paper as possible, even if it isn’t particularly well written and/or contains grammatical mistakes. 

Once you are finished, now read what you have written.  Is there a main idea that has emerged that can become a topic for an essay?  Are there several ideas that relate to a potential topic/thesis and can be written about in more detail in an essay? Are there actual sentences that can be used in an essay, even if they have to be revised? More than likely, the answer to these questions is yes.  If so, you now have a start for your essay.  At this point, you can begin the initial process of developing a working thesis, grouping your ideas together through brainstorming, and/or creating an outline. 

It works even when it doesn’t:
Although unlikely, it is possible that what you wrote will not lead to further ideas or development.  If this is the case, don’t worry.  Thanks to this freewriting exercise, you now know that this potential topic or idea for your essay may not be the right one for this particular assignment, and you can try out another topic.  Coming to this realization now, after only a few minutes of freewriting, is much better than realizing it later, once more time has been committed to this potential topic.  In this way, freewriting saves time whether it leads to specific topics/ideas or not.