Fever-Writing And Freewriting | Teen Ink

Fever-Writing And Freewriting

February 4, 2019
By Cat_S BRONZE, North Chelmsford, Massachusetts
Cat_S BRONZE, North Chelmsford, Massachusetts
2 articles 0 photos 0 comments

If your high school English teachers are anything like mine were, then you should be able to recall that drawled-out groan coming from the other twenty-five students in the room - it’s time for the dreaded weekly freewrite. And when the teacher passes out the torn scrappy piece of paper, doing ANYTHING else suddenly seems more appealing. Those rocks in your geology class suddenly seem beautiful and even the other English assignments are more entertaining than this (at least you’re told what to write about). Hell, even chores look exhilarating now.

And of course, you have only five minutes to write an entire page of what is essentially the ramblings of a bored teenager - but keeping it “school appropriate” for the teacher’s sake.

5. 4. 3. 2. 1. GO!!!

You immediately feel the pressure and you either sit there staring at the whiteboard or you start writing nonsense, worrying that you haven’t written enough words on the page. Meanwhile, you’re praying that what you’ve written makes some sort of sense even if it’s just in an artistic interpretation. You’re not quite sure so you start to read it over, fixing and editing even though you only have half a page -

But time’s up. Does this sound familiar?

In this situation, this type of writing is in fact not freewriting, no matter what any teacher says. This is what I like to call “fever-writing” and it’s sadly how I completed most of my essays in high school. It’s the type of randomness that results in panicky writing that relies on the author to go back and edit it before it can be passed in for an acceptable grade. But the most important distinction is the clear contempt the student has for writing. Afterall, writing an essay is not something to be enjoyed - it’s just work.

When students fever-write, they simply do that. They end up feverishly writing down words for the sake of writing words. Finding any enjoyment or meaning in what they are writing is almost a chore because they were not taught how to properly freewrite. A proper freewrite is when the author is given a simple task that has only two rules - write whatever comes to mind, not stopping to reread it halfway and write continuously until your set time is up. Students hate what their teachers call “freewriting” because they are paranoid of what they say and fearful of the judgement they will receive from their teacher. Or perhaps the abuse they inflict on themselves. As a writer, it’s almost second nature to second guess rhetorical things like word choice and grammar structure but students fear their own thoughts most of all. And it’s all because of that specialized audience they have in their heads. And these students who judge themselves harshly or set unnatural standards are their own audience, even when it comes to their own personal writing.

Most students don't reach their full creative potential when it comes to writing because of that disapproving subscious audience in their head. This can be anything from your nightmare of a teacher to your own subconscious tormenting you with the thought of “that will never be good enough, stupid.” I know I have felt ridiculous in the past for having high standards when it came to my personal writing because I know that it’s simply personal, meaning no one but me will read it. But somehow, being scrutinized by yourself makes you subconsciously apply unrealistic pressure upon yourself. In doing so, you think your writing will turn into the next masterpiece in modern literature - almost similar to how if you apply enough pressure to carbon atoms, you will end up with a crystalized diamond. But writing, of course, is nothing like making a diamond. If we always listen to the audience inside our heads, then we just end up over editing and we never actually stop to enjoy writing.

The initial purpose of freewriting is to ignore your judgemental self and simply let words come down unto the page directly from your brain in a continuous manner. The key point is to be kind to yourself and your creative as potential. And just like how it’s easier to keep running in a marathon rather than stopping and then having to start again, words and ideas just run along in a continuous manner. Similarly, if we refrain from stopping just to have to restart repeatedly, we seem to devote less time to our inner audience and more to the task at handwriting continuously until the time is up. Whether we are given a deadline or not, writers of all kinds have been shown to spend more time “non-writing” (literally any action other than writing) during the time it took to complete the piece when compared to the actual time spent writing. As a result, professional writers often take such a long time to produce long works, even though the majority of that time is not actually focused on the writing.

Writing at the moment or being “in the zone” is something every student or writer dreams being in every time they sit down to compose. Of course, it’s never that effortless. But if we are actually consciously practicing non-stop writing, then we find that we don’t think about things we have done in the past. Likewise, we find that we aren’t so much worried about the list of things we need to complete in the future either. And if thoughts about the past and the future have been eliminated during this time, then there’s only the present moment that we are writing in.

And if we use a similar line of thinking, then consciously staying in the present is how we properly freewrite. Freewriting is supposed to be what we are thinking and feeling in the present moment that we are writing. So, in a way, grounding ourselves in the present moment is the only way to truly freewrite.

Being non-judgmental also is the point of freewriting, since you are simply writing and not looking back on what you have previously written. And if you are always second-guessing yourself about simple things like word choice or sentence structure, then you'll most likely find yourself frustrated and with little to no words on the page. If we look over our writing mistakes and just roll with writing down our thoughts, then we will actually have something to reflect back on when we revise and recompose. We are mindful that we are free writing freely, without judging ourselves then we have the time to be mindful of the content we write and more importantly, enjoy the process.  If the end goal is to complete a product that we can be proud of, why not enjoy the journey of how we got there?

The author's comments:

This piece is actually a mixture of 2 seperate freewrites done for a class that I combined with some other original writing to connect it all together.

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