In my experience of working with individuals and groups on reflective practice I am struck by the fact that for some people it is hard to get the writing process going. In this my second Blog on Reflective Practice I would like to share with you a writing technique that may assist. The technique is called ‘Free Writing’. I will first describe the technique and then briefly discuss some of the benefits and why I think it might be a useful pre- writing exercise before writing in your Personal Learning Journal.
What is Free Writing?
Free writing is a powerful technique which allows your thoughts to flow onto the page, in a stream of consciousness kind of way. Setting up a free writing exercise is easy. Choose an opening sentence to start you off. This might be a sentence with no particular focus, for example “I woke up this morning and ….” or it might be a sentence to help you with your thinking on a particular topic, for example, “I am struggling with my research topic and ….” Then decide how long you want to write for. At the beginning it is a good idea to write for 5 minutes. In this short time you will experience the benefits of the free writing technique. You can then build up your time as you do more free writing. It is a good idea to set an alarm clock so that you don’t have to look at your watch while you are writing. With this preparation you are now ready to start the clock and write. The rules for writing are as follows: Write your chosen sentence at the top of the page and carry on writing. The idea is that you keep your pen moving across the page, writing down whatever thoughts come flooding into your mind. This means that you don’t stop to correct spelling, grammar or spend time on editing. In fact if you get stuck you can write “I don’t know what to write, repeatedly until, your ideas flow back. That’s it! Easy to set up and rather strange at first to write in this way but if you follow the rules you will invariably feel a great sense of relief and often be surprised at what lands up on the page!
Why is Free Writing helpful for Reflection?
I think the Free Writing exercise can be helpful for reflective writing for a number of reasons. Firstly, it helps us make the shift from formal to informal writing. The rules for free writing are very different to rules for formal academic writing for example. There is an inherent freedom in the instruction to write and keep on writing without worrying about spelling, punctuation and grammar. And this experience of writing freely is one that can be usefully carried over into the Personal Learning Journal. Secondly, the free writing exercise is personal. You might choose to share what you write or ideas that have come up but essentially the reason for doing the exercise is to help you. This might be to clear your mind, to de-stress or to focus. “Wow, I am surprised by what came out onto the page” “I feel a weight off my shoulders” “I have unblocked a barrier to writing” are examples of the kinds of things people say after a 5 minute free writing exercise. To me this is all quite extraordinary. In a very short period of time and by following the rules there are powerful benefits. There is a tangible sense of relief and a freeing up which I think is exactly what one needs for reflective practice.
In my first Blog (20th March) I spoke about the Personal Learning Journal and I think it is worth thinking about that name again. It is a ‘Learning Journal’ and it is ‘Personal’. The audience is you and only you. This is not a Journal that you give to someone else to read or indeed mark! Doing a personal free writing exercise first may help you to tune into what you are thinking and feeling and deepen your reflection when it comes to writing in the Personal Learning Journal. - See more at: https://www.uea.ac.uk/devresearch/post?p=reflective-practice-ideas-...What is your experience of Free Writing? Do you think Free Writing might be helpful as a step into building your reflective practice? What other ideas and experiences do you have that can help? I look forward to hearing your thoughts and experiences.
I also want to thank everyone who looked at my last blog on Reflective Practice and a special thanks to all those who contributed with written comments. Let’s keep the conversation going!