Free Writing

I attended a session on ‘Free Writing’ this month with Caroline Brimblecombe as arranged by Heather Savigny at Bournemouth University. The session was entitled “Getting your PhD written” and it was extremely useful. These timed free writing sessions – where you write continuously without stopping to correct or edit – feels like it does whilst pounding the cross trainer, it’s exhausting but perhaps gets less so with practice. It exercises the kind of mental muscle usually reserved for ‘the stroll, leading up to a brisk walk and occasional stretching’ that I associate with academic writing.

My writing habits are entirely other than what I was being asked to do. Free writing is no place for agonising over concepts  and verbal formulae. It’s a place to build up trust in your capacity to ‘go with the flow’ – hideous cliché – but this is exactly how it feels. Like Dory in Finding Nemo – one minute she’s in a vast expanse of quiet, (sky) blue contemplative stasis, the next she’s whipped into the East Australian Current surfing with a bunch of spaced out turtles. There’s something appealing about a lumpen turtle being transformed when it’s in its ‘Element’ (thank you Ken) and comparing that with the relative merits of slow/fast writing.

Free writing isn’t bound for sharing but below is 15 minutes of it – warts and all – where I set myself the task of writing about free writing and end up heading towards phd themes:

So this is free writing – the idea of continual uncorrected writing on the page. Can you make writing – like you make a cake? Doesn’t there have to be a mass of already stored ingredients and a recipe to follow? whateer – here’s a slab of it. It was a session at Bourneouth University with Caroline Brindlecombe from East Anglia University. She cam e and oversaw about 4 focussed intense and TIMED writing sessions with some Phd students who prarps have hit a blocked moment or just want to werite more and think less.

I found that it was less about “getting parts of my phd written” and more aoubt the exercise of spilling words out on to the page with no accounting for error or jusgements about prose or style or coherence. Just words. Just thoughts into words. It’s a profoundly creative process that seems to exercise various parts of the brain that usually tick over like some lazy motor. It’s been revved up to about the equivalent of 50,000 revs per minute.

What might be the outcome if one were to do the same thing with primary kids and digital media? What would you get? They sure have enough stored material to select from in terms of popular cultural capital. HYou’d just need them to be proficient enough with the technology – like writing. Writing is a simply a technology that’s been taken up by the human race.

HO hum. Hit a block. I think this is normal. I wanted to explain or express rather how TIRING this was to do over 1 x 20 mins session and 2 x 40 mins sessions. I cam out with real drivel interspersed with insight – more drivel than insight but it’s still worth it. Free writing, free writing…. what are we being freed from? school ptotocols? some kind of language imprisonment? This resonates with much of what I have to say in my phd with regard to the continual conjoining of literacy with language. Freedom, to from hierarchical claims as to who ownd literacy and waht the rules of engagement are.

Michael Rosen is hugely vocal on the subject and takes M Gove to task almost daily on the constraints the Dept of Education impose on the teaching profession and issues of grammar and spelling and knowing the right dates for royal lineage and canonical texts and quotes. A youth from some ‘deprived’ urban (or indeed rural) area will have their ives turned around by being able to quote song and verse from The Wasteland. It’s important stuff but not sufficient – in the words of Ken Robinson.

Now there’s a modern day guru if ever there was one – almost like some pedagogical demi-god. don’t get me wrong there’s much in what he says that resonates and acts like some kindof trigger for action, however, the amount of totalising and homogenising that goes on in his presentations is unforgivable. Rhetoric, rhetoric, all is rhetoric. But people like rhetoric because it simplifies theier lives and allows them to take heed from someone who is perceived to be wiser than they.

One comment

  1. Pingback: Record of Research Training & Engagement | Making is Learning

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