Learning to Crawl before Walking

Back to the subject of what to teach in writing class, my professor had us do a very interesting exercise my freshman year at the start of every class. It was considered a free-write exercise, in that we would just practice strict stream-of-consciousness writing. Whatever thought popped into our heads, we would have to write it down. Our professor’s one rule was that we were not allowed to stop writing for the entire ten minutes. Even if we ran out of things to say for a couple of seconds, we were supposed to write ‘I have run out of things to say at this moment’. Before my first entry, I thought this was going to be a simple exercise and did not understand the merits whatsoever. However, as I began to write, i found myself plagued by grammatical doubts and the consistent need to proofread whatever I was writing. This is what my professor was trying to prevent. She instructed us after our first attempt that she wanted us to forget the form and structure of writing that had been so uncompromisingly ingrained into us throughout high school. She wanted us to be able to develop our own form of writing at its most minimal stage, and then begin to build on it from there as we progressed further into the semester. It was one of those lessons where I wasn’t able to appreciate it until after the course had ended. For quite some time, I had trouble expressing my ideas in a flowing and consistent manner. My stream of thought was consistently interrupted by an annoying editor in the back of my mind that was trying to make the paragraph perfect before I even knew what I wanted the paragraph to be. This exercise gave me a clearer vision as to what I wanted my writing to take the shape of for a specific paper, and was able to let me organize and outline my essays more efficiently. I believe that this exercise should be implemented in many core curriculums, even starting as early as high school. Because even though there is a certain set of rules that one has to follow for an efficient, readable paper, the ability to let words flow freely is a great gift that unlocks a writer’s potential.


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