Welcome!

Welcome!

Writing in a space such as this is an exercise in devising my purposes for writing. The rest of this webpage serves as a profile of sorts, documenting my current academic and public interests. It is an index to what I am doing. This blog is a space for at least one of the chapters of my writing life, a medium for creation in addition to documentation.

This page will document the major events and writing milestones I reach. If I present at a conference or publish an article, you’ll hear about it here. In addition, in some standard time interval (perhaps a week) I hope to write short essays. These are essays in the sense of being exploratory attempts at expressing latent ideas, a somewhat formalized version of brainstorming. I welcome comments, especially mutual enthusing, constructive advice, and addendums.

I have written a blog before, but this feels different somehow because it is public, because it is attached to my name. I aim to have fun with it.

What a freewrite looks like for me – freewriting on freewriting

First, I will produce a few thoughts on freewriting, and then show the freewrite I pursued prior to composing this post.

Why freewrite? To express preoccupations or ideas in words. To frame the first statements on a topic outside of the constraints of a draft. To figure out what topics are most intriguing.

When freewrite? Whenever! It is often construed as a process early in the writing process, where it is very helpful. The impulse to freewrite often comes later in the process as well. A friend has a term for when the footnote overflows with one’s own ideas – the “in-note.” In later stages, freewriting can help edify, clarify, or recombine ideas not quite working in the current draft. 

What are some strategies to use? First, I set aside a certain amount of time (10-20 min.) and try to continuously write in the medium most comfortable for me. I alternate between typing and writing longhand – the latter allows for more doodling, the former for quicker speed.

Here are a few practices that have helped me:
1. Try to keep writing constantly. If ideas aren’t coming up, I will write an irrelevant word or string together a few phrases. This is a great way to get me past “writer’s block,” which is often as much about reluctance to write as about the lack of ideas.
2. Be flexible in form. Paragraphs are perfectly fine. So are columns, tables, lists, diagrams, strings of words, and acrostics. Sometimes a shift in form is a good way to kindle new ideas: a list begs for more articles around a central topic; a diagram begs for more connections between different items.
3. Write, don’t edit. Conciseness and thoroughness are good, but steps that can be pursued after the freewrite. If I hit on a particularly good idea, I can briefly mark it. If I feel the need to go to a source afterwards, I can inject a quick statement to prompt me to go there when I am done.
4. Summarize and restate. Repetition is alright. Sometimes it’s a good idea to summarize the best ideas afterwards. At other times, generating two or three statements around the same idea during the freewrite is a quick way to think through the key parts of an idea. What words, phrases, and connections keep coming up? What seems to be missing?

Finally, take everything here as suggestion and not rule. I break some of these practices a lot (especially “write, don’t edit”), but merely stating them helps foster the openness I need to quickly generate expressed thoughts on a topic. Getting worried over my own habit of correcting as I write would be more disruptive than merely writing a word again.

Now for the freewrite I pursued prior to this post. It may look at first like a draft, but I hope the differences are evident.

When I want to get deeply into a topic, I start freewriting. This entails quickly throwing out ideas, writing something, explaining for myself, and going on.

A friend of mine has a delightful name for the types of footnotes that we sometimes write in later drafts that are really footnotes for our own satisfaction – “in-notes.” An “in-note” is sometimes close to a freewrite, though it is meticulously crafted later in the process. In the form of a draft, sometimes an idea leaks or needs to solidify for a while off the page.

The last paragraph ought to suggest that freewriting does not start at the beg… that it is not just a process for the start of writing. The ellipsis was where I was tempted to delete. I prefer bolding, underlining, or starring what seems important.

It is difficult to feel comfortable typing whatever on a page. Every word must count, I’ve long been taught, and so I worry over many of my first drafts overmuch. The freewrite is not a draft. It is the generation of words and sentences around an idea.

What are some strategies?
a. ducks.
b. I find it easy to throw out an irrelevant listing at times when I can’t think of something immediately.
c. B is actually a strategy.
d. Sometimes it’s good to transition to a different form. The list, for instance. Julian of Norwich didn’t list things in three for nothing, and if we only get to two or end up with six, SOMETHING INVOLVING THE SACRAMENTS.
e. In addition to typing something irrelevant, I find it useful to make note of where I would say something more prepared if it were a draft. The spaces to be filled by lit review, by citations, by further explications of text.
f. I like to set a defined time for this form of writing. 20 minutes works for me. This is to be treated as a minimum, rather than a set time.
g. I like to switch up mediums. Typing enables me to quickly express my thoughts. Writing enables me to doodle in the margins more. Some find one mode more kinetically engaging than the other – they are able to think better while typing or while writing. 
h. If typing, resist the urge to correct as you type. I have broken this rule a lot already.
i. For the particularly good ideas that come out here, maybe set aside a slightly more formal writing time to get them out properly. For example, with this list, I would delete A and C and refine many of the others.

The tension I’m encountering here is between doing a freewrite about freewriting and making this the final draft that I publish for the world to see. Blogs are often light on drafting, but even so there is the expectation of having more concision than I’m currently exercising. Perhaps it would be most convenient to derive the most relevant parts of this freewrite for a draft, and leave this on the bottom?

Another thing about the list – “free” should denote some sort of freedom. Of what? Freedom of determining one’s process for oneself. The freedom to say something irrelevant or wrong. The freedom to string together associations that will later be bolstered with links, sources, organization, and revision. This isn’t the same as being open, incidentally, though then again calling this process “openwriting” would convey many of the same values – being open to the ideas that are coming out. It’s important to also be free to pursue a idea for an extended period of time, and then to return to the research and the beginning stages of composition.

If I find myself pausing, like I just did here, there’s nothing wrong with that. I can reread what I have said, use another duck interjector, or transition to some other idea.

Summary and rephrasing are good strategies. I tried using the word “rephrasement,” but I don’t think that’s a term. Why did I choose that? -ment seems to suggest a kind of … the word establishment comes to mind, an edifice or a thing. If I were to follow this up, I would want to look further in a dictionary, and perhaps look for “rephrasement” in COCA.

The best thing is that I’m letting myself think without getting caught by either the higher order concerns or lower order concerns of drafting. Spelling and MLA formatting, organization and good argument – all of these matter. They don’t belong here.

Fast Renditions Establishing Estuaries Where Reading Is Thinking into Nice Gloves.
No, I guess that didn’t work too well.