Tuesday, January 17, 2012

On Free Writing

The online writing group that I’m part of has recently been discussing ‘free writing,’ so I decided to go for something like a free write.   For some reason I’ve decided to write in sme kind of real time sequence as Ornette Coleman’s ‘Free Jazz part 1’ is streaming.  Hence, I’ve included a link to this music.   I’m very much inspired by imrpvoisitonal music, especially jazz and the Grateful Dead.  (note:  I’m making small typos as I wrtite this and trying my best to resist the temptation to correct them as I go along.  From what I understand doing a free write means just that, to write freely without concern for grammar, spelling, etc.  but I’ve become to accustomed to back spacing when I make mistakes, that it’s hard to resitst thetemptamtion to correct myself).   So I decided to write along with the Ornette Coleman et al’s jam, thinking that ten mins is a decent amount of time to do a free write.   [do pauses count?  How would one record a pause?  Is free writing a non-stop process?   The jam seems to be continuous, although it’s not clear to me that aside from the drummer, and probably the bass player, that everyone is playing all the time.  In fact at this point in the jam (6:15) is just trumpet with bass and drums.   So about a minute ago I paused…..but the pause it’s not inscribed in the writing?   Should I symbolically represent that with something like……………….?   One of my students in my online class does that, althought I’m not sure if it’s met to represent pauses in her thinking?  I have asked her?   I saw that free writing is supposed to be a stream of consciousness, which I take to be a non-rational flow of ideas.  By non-rational I mean something like it hasn’t been planned out in advance.   So I’m just writing whatever is……emerging..I wanted to say just a moment ago that I’m going to blog at some point about my distance learning classes, because they are unbelievable productive learning spaces, and I have a sense that my students are getting more out of these courses than the students who take face to face……(AND THAT’S ALL I WAS ABLE TO COMPLETE IN TEN MINUTES)

Hmmmmmm…..I’m not sure how I feel about free writing? ……….I’m still in the modality, despite the ten minute experiment….kind of how it feels after a day at the beach, when you’ve spent lots of time in the ocean, bobbin with the waves, and later you feel the waves still moving you.  I’m still in the modality of the free write, where….I lost my train of thought….oh yeah, I’m not sure how I feel about this process?   It’s definiltely a bit more radical than the way I usually write when I am in the modality of writing a paper or lecture or something for the academic community.   I try, initially, anyway, to be a bit uninhibited so as not to produce boring writing.   And that’s because I have become increasingly …..[STOPPING TO STREAM ANOTHER PIECE OF MUSIC…..FOUND THIS LINK from ’72….which seems to be in synch with the Dead Zone’s revisiting of Europe 72, only this is from August 72…details, details]

 Ok, so I musing about this larger concern/project that I’ve really thrown myself into, which is an attempt to push back against the stultifying forms of academic writing.  Some friends/colleagues who are reading this blog are familiar with this effort, and have been very supportive.   The book that’s scheduled to come out this year is an example of my attempt to push back, and it was initiated out of a kind of exasperation with the confines of academic writing.   I won’t go into the details of Being and Learning, and only bring it up here to make a contrast between the daily writing experiment that produced it and what I’ve just experienced in the ‘free write’.   That is, when doing the daily (min one hour, one page of text) experiment for a calendar year, my main goal each day was to tune into the speculative space where I’d left off the day before….and, over time, that speculate space seemed to be some kind of topos, a particular kind of time and place where I would ‘go’.   I suppose folks call it the ‘zone’ and others the ‘flow’.  Whatever term you want to use to describe it, that place became, more or less, the content of the book itself because I was, essentially, doing a kind of phenomenology of the speculation zone.    Listening to the Dead jamming, and I suppose I was trying to do with philosophical writing what they and others do when then get into what I recently heard described on the radio (by Mike Gordon of Phish) as the Dead’s ‘zen-like place’.    So, yeah, the goal each day was to try and locate that space, and doing that required a lot of energy, a lot of focus, concentration.  The free write seems to be working in another kind of way. [JAM ENDED….NO MORE MUSIC]   It seems less concerned about locating a zone.   My sense from the discussion the online writer’s group has been having on the topic is that the free write is a kind of exercise to stimulate the process, and, in some cases, as a way to unblock a writer who is struggling.   I noticed when I was looking up ‘free write’ on Wikipedia that the process has been used with elementary school kids.  I might try it with my undergrads this semester.  

Final thoughts……the free write seems to place one in a vulnerable place, because there’s little or no editing, and who wants to put something out there that seems to be so raw?     But therein is one of the challenges of blogging as opposed to writing for professional publication; that is, in my case, I understand this blog as a kind of complement to my academic work, and, at times, it has to work as a space for an alter(native) ego….or a place where I can put out drafts, proposals, rough cuts, unedited work.

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