These assignments are meant to get you writing and thinking. They are not about producing a polished text but rather about jotting down notes or thinking in prose. Overall, I want you to be thinking about the reading you just completed. What was interesting about it? What don’t you understand? What do you think is great about the text? Is there something that bothers you about it? Is there something strange or surprising? Quite simply, what has reading the text made you think? You might want to focus on one passage of the text in particular, or you might want to draw connections between this text and another text. There is no right or wrong here. The simple goal is just to think in words, to write freely.
In Writing Without Teachers, Peter Elbow gives some useful directions for free writing:
Don’t stop for anything. Go quickly without rushing. Never stop to look back, to cross something out, to wonder how to spell something, to wonder what word or thought to use, or to think about what you are doing. If you can’t think of a word or a spelling, just use a squiggle or else write, ‘I can’t think of it.’ … The easiest thing is just to put down whatever is in your mind. If you get stuck it’s fine to write ‘I can’t think what to say, I can’t think what to say’ as many times as you want; … the only requirement is that you never stop.
Behavioral psychologists claim that we can only concentrate on writing for about 25 minutes at a time. For this reason, I ask that you spend 25 minutes on each of these assignments. Turn off the Internet. Turn off your phone. Find a space where you will have no distractions. Set a timer for 25 minutes, and then, 25 minutes later, you will be done!
Generally, students write about 400-600 words. If your text is shorter than this, please either put in more time, or write me an email so we can meet to talk about it.