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Humanities LibreTexts

4.2: Freewriting

  • Page ID
    • Rachel Bell, Jim Bowsher, Eric Brenner, Serena Chu-Mraz, Liza Erpelo, Kathleen Feinblum, Nina Floro, Gwen Fuller, Chris Gibson, Katharine Harer, Cheryl Hertig, Lucia Lachmayr, Eve Lerman, Nancy Kaplan-Beigel, Nathan Jones, Garry Nicol, Janice Sapigao, Leigh Anne Shaw, Paula Silva, Jessica Silver-Sharp, Mine Suer, Mike Urquidez, Rob Williams, Karen Wong, Susan Zoughbie, Leigh Anne Shaw, Paula Silva, Jessica Silver-Sharp, Mine Suer, Mike Urquidez, Rob Williams, Karen Wong, and Susan Zoughbie
    • Skyline College

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    Freewriting is a technique that helps you generate content for an essay. Freewriting is writing continuously, letting thoughts unselfconsciously flow (often for about 5 to 10 minutes) without regard to spelling, grammar, style etc., and no corrections are made. Because there are no restrictions on structure/format or length, freewriting allows you the freedom to discover what you want to write about without worrying about rules or expectations.


    • It provides you with the raw material to help you start writing an essay.
    • It helps you to bypass your “internal critic” who can make it difficult for you to explore your thoughts and ideas.
    • It gives you confidence in your ability to explore a topic.
    • It helps you develop your own unique writing voice and promote a solid flow, or rhythm, to your sentences.
    • It gives you an easy way to begin any piece of writing and helps you surpass writer’s block.


    Start with a blank piece of paper or blank computer screen. Give yourself a minimum of five minutes of uninterrupted time to freewrite. Write a few words at the top of the page to get you started and keep you focused, such as the general topic of your essay assignment or a quote from the text that is significant to you. Now begin writing whatever comes into your head when you think about this quote, the topic and/or the assignment that you have been given.

    Try to keep writing without stopping, crossing-out, or erasing. Even if what you are writing seems like it isn’t “correct” or “perfect,” keep going. This is the key to freewriting – to write freely! Go for five minutes without stopping. If you have more to say, keep going for as long as you can. Don’t evaluate what you are writing, or you will stop the free flow of thoughts and ideas.

    Once you have a page or more of freewriting, read back over it and look for ideas or points that you might include in your essay. Underline or circle sentences or groups of sentences that you especially like and think you may be able to use in your essay. Use your freewriting as a springboard for your thinking about this assignment, directing you toward further reading, research and the writing of the first draft of the essay.

    Example: Freewriting sample

    In response to Chapter VII in Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, do the following:

    Write a quote, or part of a quote, from the text by Frederick Douglass at the top of a blank piece of paper or a blank computer screen (or your most recently assigned text). For approximately five minutes, write anything and everything that is triggered by the quote.

    Selected quote: “I have often wished myself a beast. I preferred the condition of the meanest reptile to my own. Anything, no matter what, to get rid of thinking!”

    Frederick Douglass has learned to read and after he reads a speech by Sheridan, he sees that his human rights have been taken away by slavery. He began to hate his enslavers. He says they are robbers who took Africans from their homes and brought them to America to enslave them and take away their human rights. Once Douglass can read, his thinking skills are stronger because he is exposed to ideas beyond his own experiences, and his understanding of the oppressive nature of slavery is even stronger. He says that his Master Hugh was right – he feels a powerful feeling of discontentment that is so painful that he almost wishes he were illiterate and didn’t know how to read and think. He is overwhelmed by what he realizes and says he wishes at times he was ignorant because he is tormented by the horror of slavery. It is ironic because slavery is dehumanizing and Douglass says he almost wishes he didn’t know what he knows and could stay ignorant. This makes me think about how reading and thinking help to liberate and enlarge our minds, and that is why in many countries run by dictators there is a high rate of illiteracy. If people are kept illiterate, they can be oppressed more easily. Being exposed to ideas can promote consciousness, which can lead to action. Frederick Douglass was changed forever by his ability to read, write and think about his situation as a slave. This makes me think how all of us are enslaved in one way or another, and that by reading and thinking about it, we can free ourselves.

    Ideas for an essay topic drawn from this example of freewriting:

    • How learning to read, write and think about ideas is a liberating experience
    • How anger and discontentment can fuel awareness and action
    • The power of ideas to build consciousness
    • The irony of Frederick Douglass wishing to be a “beast” because of the painful truths he realizes about the dehumanization of slavery
    Practice: Freewriting

    Analyze the following quote from Chapter VII in Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (or analyze a quote or aspect of your most recently assigned text). For approximately five minutes, write anything and everything that is triggered by the selected text.

    Douglass Quote: “My mistress was, as I have said, a kind and tender-hearted woman; and in the simplicity of her soul she commenced, when I first went to live with her, to treat me as she supposed one human being ought to treat another. In entering upon the duties of a slaveholder, she did not seem to perceive that I sustained to her the relation of a mere chattel, and that for her to treat me as a human being was not only wrong, but dangerously so. Slavery proved as injurious to her as it did
    to me” (31).


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