Nothing Begins with N: New Investigations of Freewriting

Nothing Begins with N: New Investigations of Freewriting

Nothing Begins with N: New Investigations of Freewriting

Nothing Begins with N: New Investigations of Freewriting


The 16 essays in this book provide a theoretical underpinning for freewriting.

Sheryl I. Fontaine opens the book with a description of the organization, purpose, and content of students' 10-minute unfocused freewriting.

Pat Belanoff discusses the relationship between skilled and unskilled student writers.

Richard H. Haswell analyzes forms of freewriting.

Lynn Hammond describes the focused freewriting strategies used in legal writing and in the analysis of poetry.

Joy Marsella and Thomas L. Hilgers suggest ways of teaching freewriting as a heuristic.

Diana George and Art Young show what teachers learned about the writing abilities of three engineering students through freewriting journals.

Anne E. Mullin seeks to determine whether freewriting lives up to claims made for it.

Barbara W. Cheshire assesses the efficacy of freewriting.

James W. Pennebaker checks the short- and long-term effects of freewriting on students' emotional lives.

Ken Macrorie notes that freewriting means being freed to use certain powers.

Peter Elbow shows how authors use freewriting.

Robert Whitney tells "why I hate to freewrite."

Karen Ferro considers her own freewriting, showing how it leads to a deeper self-understanding.

Chris Anderson discusses the qualities in freewriting that we should maintain in revision.

Burton Hatlen shows the parallels between writing projective verse and freewriting.

Sheridan Blau describes the results of experiments with invisible writing.


We take our title from a pregnant moment in Bob Whitney's essay:

. . . I will sometimes ask a student to freewrite during [our] conference. I sit and watch, and prompt the writer whenever the pen stops. It always does stop even though I have explained the need to keep the pen moving and the writer has agreed. At that point I might ask, "What are you thinking now?" I don't leave time for a considered answer. If the writer doesn't respond, I ask again. "What are you thinking now?"

"Nothing one student might say . . .

"Nothing begins with an N," I say in return. The pen remains transfixed. "You can write that down," I coax.

What intrigues us about this moment is that, odd and atypical as it might be, it nevertheless highlights the central event in freewriting-- just as freewriting itself highlights the central event in writing: the act of naming or finding a word for a something in the mind that up to that point had had no name or word; the act of spelling out a mental event in letters on a page--in this case a blankness of mind or "nothing."

Purpose of This Book

Over the past fifteen or twenty years, freewriting has gradually become a staple in our profession, sometimes serving as the center . . .

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