what is “Freewriting” and why is this a smart thing for Writers to do?

Here is how writer and writing teacher Peter Elbow explains freewriting exercise and why it’s valuable.:

The idea is simply to write for ten minutes (later on, perhaps fifteen or twenty). Don’t stop for anything. Go quickly without rushing. Never stop to look back, to cross something out, to wonder how to spell something, to wonder what word or thought to use, or to think about what you are doing. If you can’t think of a word or a spelling, just use a squiggle or else write “I can’t think what to say, I can’t think what to say” as many times as you want; or repeat the last word you wrote over and over again; or anything else. The only requirement is that you never stop. . . .

Freewriting may seem crazy but actually it makes simple sense. Think of the difference between speaking and writing. Writing has the advantage of permitting more editing. But that’s its downfall too. Almost everyone interposes a massive and complicated series of editings between the time the words start to be born into consciousness and when they finally come of the end of the pencil or typewriter onto the page. This is partly because schooling makes us obsessed with the “mistakes” we make in writing.” (From Writing without Teachers)

You can read more of Peter Elbow’s discussion here. It’s a great excerpt because it explains clearly how the process serves us as artists.

Have you done a freewrite today?  I try to do a short one every day. This practice is based on the Julia Cameron practice of the “morning pages.” Her book The Artist’s Way, is a book that many artists swear by.  There and in her other books, she asks artists to write 3 pages or 750 words of ‘freewriting” a day.

We will do alot of this kind of writing in our class.


syllabus group work

Part of your group work in class on Thursday will be to generate ONE syllabus that the members of your group have composed together. Here is a copy of the syllabus form, in case you need a new one.

Feel free to think in a “utopian” manner. What would be the sorts of work you’d — ideally — like to do, if you could?

How can your group organize so that the syllabus — including texts to be covered and written to work to be completed (as well as dates on which the work is due) — can come together reflecting all 4-5 members?

Please either print out your syllabus, or have it available on screen for class either through google docs or some other program. In either case, be sure that you can give me a personal copy either electronically or in hard copy. thanks!

* if you missed class today, you will need to form or join a group on Thursday.

2Syllabus Worksheet4german (docx)


2Syllabus Worksheet4german (doc)

Was? Warum? Wie? /What? Why? How? — stuff to think about (if you want) before our class begins

  • Why are you taking this class?
  • What potentially interests you about things “German”?
  • What might you explore/inquire/research/study about that might make our class valuable to you?  Why?
  • How (what steps) could you (take to) start learning about these things?
  • How does writing creatively fit into any of this? If it doesn’t how could it? If it does, how does it fit? If you don’t know, how could you start finding out?

Yoko Tawada — part of the Who’s German? contemporary writing brigade

Just listened to Yoko Tawada’s collage-reading of texts with the help of her Japanese-English translator. It is one of the links offered below. She is from Japan, but lives in Germany and writes in both Japanese and German. She’s a definite possibility for our class, although her work is not viewable online for free at this point. Here’s a bit about her. I don’t always love Wikipedia, but this entry looks pretty well written and pretty extensive.  There is also a blog post about her in The Yorker.

how do we do democratic, yet responsible peer assessment?– updated

I’ve given this matter alot of thought and talked to some people about how to manage this part of the class. How can students engage in a democratic yet honest assessment of ourselves and others doing collaborative work?

So I’ve decided to use the system developed by  Jo Scott Coe’s, (author and teacher):

Team Assessmentsperjoscottcoe

Thanks to Jo for sharing her form!

There are 3 “grades” that you’ll assign to yourself and your team-mates:

L = lead

F= follow

G = get out of the way

G can be good, depending on the situation, but over time, you want to try to at least try L and F some of the time.

I’ll have you fill out these sheets at the end of every group project, exercise, and then you’ll hand them in to me.  We’ll see how it works.

Which one seems simpler to use? Fairer? What are the advantages of one over the other? Disadvantages?