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16.1 Techniques for Writing: Your Writing

Think of an activity that you enjoy when you have time off from work and school. What is it and what do you like about it? Don't write anything for a minute—just picture yourself enjoying this activity. Now check the time and give yourself five minutes for each of the following steps.

1. Write down everything that comes into your head about this leisure time activity. Write fast; try to capture every thought that comes to mind. Don't stop to erase anything or think. For example, a student whose topic is scuba diving starts this way:

Scuba diving is exciting you're in a whole new world underwater. Like like outer space. Cant here anything exept my own breathe . .
Notice that he hasn't stopped to correct spelling or punctuation.

If your mind goes blank, just write your last phrase over and over until new words come. You can wander off your topic and say outrageous things. Just write nonstop for five minutes.

Now shake your wrists and relax before going on to the next step.

2. Write the name of your leisure time activity in the center of a blank page and then think of words or phrases (no sentences) that are keys to your thoughts about this topic. Whenever a word comes into your mind, jot it quickly on the page. Surround your topic with these words. When several thoughts are related to each other, put them together in a cluster, and when a completely new thought comes, put it on another part of the page.

For example, the student interested in scuba diving starts this way:

There are two rules: a) Don't try to write out each thought; just jot down a phrase quickly and see what comes next. b) Don't reject any thoughts; they are all potentially useful. When you are finished, check to see that related thoughts are close together in clusters. Move any that need to be closer to each other.

Freewriting (step 1) and clustering (step 2) are ways of discovering what you want to say and getting the writing process started. If your teacher or study group would like you to develop this exercise into a longer paragraph or essay, apply the techniques in this chapter to develop the ideas you've uncovered here.

Click here for an example of freewriting and click here for an example of clustering. For further information about freewriting, clustering, and other forms of brainstorming use the icon to the right.

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