Resource Blog # 4 Writing Without Teachers

Though I know we only had to do three Resource Blogs, I thought I should do one more as one of my resource blogs was from our class readings. The  Resource Blog which I will be using not only for this class but for other classes to come  is the classic book written by Peter Elbow, Writing Without Teachers. My version is the 25th Anniversary Edition published in 1998. In 2013 it will be the 40th Anniversary Edition, and this book will prove to be a valuable asset in the composition field if you agree with Elbow’s teaching.

One of the most interesting things Elbow writes in the book as far as I am concerned is in the beginning chapter he discusses “Freewriting  and Garbage.” He suggests that as you let yourself go and just write not being concerned what you say if it is correct or not, or if it is grammatically correct or spelled correctly but the importance is that you write and from that writing will come better writing that if you restricted your self by stopping to make corrections as I was doing when I began writing or typing but that now that I am letting go by the wayside to come back and to “clean up my mess” later as Elbow would say.

Elbow suggests “that writing is a process”  and he also suggests that, The Process of writing is growing as a writer…His point for those people who have writers block is to start writing and not to stop until You have a pageful of writing from what others would consider garbage is where some of the best writing begins…


2 comments on “Resource Blog # 4 Writing Without Teachers

  1. While I do not disagree with the notion of writing whatever comes to mind until it leads you to an idea of what you want to write about, I do not think this strategy applies to everyone. Basically “garbage writing” is just another form of brainstorming. Some writers like to do their idea searching verbally in a conversation with others or alone with themselves. Others like to have a silent dialogue with an imaginary converser. And there are also those who think in visual images, they see pictures in their minds, a visual sequence of events, while they carry on doing their house chores or driving a car. There are quite a few examples of such variety in the Vivian Zamel’s article “Writing; The Process of Discovering Meaning” (1982), TESOL Quarterly, 16/2. She presents a study of eight advanced ESL students enrolled in a writing course. Each of them had their own approach to writing, which had their similarities and differences. The basic idea is the same: brainstorming, searching, thinking about anything. For me personally the physical action of writing down my thinking process would be distracting. Moreover, it would be irritating, because I think faster than I write; therefore, writing down my thoughts would slow down my thinking process.

    However, I agree that the “polishing” process (error correction, etc.) should come when the main body of the writing is already on paper. Yet, I wouldn’t impose that view on my students, either. My main approach to that would be, “whatever works for you”. I am a very visual writer. When I am working on a project, I do the “cosmetics” first. I create a headline with a course’ name, professor’s name, my name, a date, then a title of the project, headlines (introduction, conclusion, references, appendices), page numbers, etc. I cannot concentrate if my paper is completely blank. Sometimes, when I know a theme, I paste images/pictures on the paper (which I might or might not delete later), they help me think and write creatively.

    Once again, there is no “one-size-fits-all” formula, but it definitely widens your horizons knowing all possible approaches to writing. It definitely helps being able to offer them to your students (if you are a teacher) so they could choose whatever works for each of them individually.

  2. As someone who just finished writing 35 pages of “garbage” I am in complete agreement with Elbow’s point of view. Over the last couple of months I have been writing an autobiographical narrative and for the most part I just let it flow, with the critic turned off. As I let the words spill out onto the paper, the very fact that writing now existed, sparked a number of creative ideas that surely would never have occurred to me if I had not first taken the step of simply writing what came to mind. Prior to writing, I had flirted with a couple of outlines, each of which I quickly aborted aborted. Its only now, after I have something substantial written, that I can see the value in actually going and creating an outline. Now, I can start to sculpt my story with the help of a more structured intent.

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