Apprehensive is what I’ve been feeling for weeks leading up to the research proposal. The best I can do as a writer is to contribute what I know and think about a topic at this particular time.
If I think about it, I have suffered from writing anxiety for as long as I can remember. From my college days, when I felt the pressure the night before a major paper was due. I remember as a sophomore in college, I would spend countless hours reviewing my notes to make sure I have the right answer, the answer the professor had provided. I would shuffle through rubrics to make sure I had all the requirements, though the rubrics were vague. To now, where even conducting an email to a superior takes hours, just because I want to ensure I am flawlessly responding.
I/we have all been taught a product of writing. I am always searching for the RIGHT answer, not a genuinely created response, but the fitting answer. I think that is what has provoked my writing anxiety throughout the years. Murray asserts in his article “Teach Writing as a Process, Not Product,” that many educators have been taught a product but have never been taught a process. Murray states, we are “trained in the autopsy, we go out and are assigned to teach our students to write, to make language live.” What he is saying is, unavoidably, teachers use their training in studying and analyzing literature when teaching students. We expect our students to examine literature the same way we do, and despite the “repetitive autopsy,” the product does not improve. Often the educators blame students for this. The students are then passed on to the next teacher, who is inevitably trained in the same way. Year after year, the student receives criticism, and no matter how brilliant, it makes no difference because, as Murray asserts, “when we are teaching composition, we are not teaching a product, we are teaching a process.”
Murray reveals the process; it is “the process of discovery through language. It is the process of exploration of what we know and what we feel about what we know through language…using language to learn about our world, to evaluate what we learn about our world, to communicate what we learn about our world.” Ultimately, he means leaving the opportunity of discovery into the student’s hands, leaving it to them to make ethical decisions based on life. The shift from product to process can be easily made by dividing the writing process into three stages: prewriting, writing and rewriting.
Murray has inspired my research project, and ironically before starting the research proposal, we were required to read Peter Elbow’s article “Phenomenology of Freewriting.” Elbow, in his article, describes the usefulness of freewriting in the classroom, arguing that the point of the practice is “to write and not 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 think about what you are doing.” I’m glad we had to read Elbow’s article because it took me back to Dr. Zamora’s class to where Murray and Elbow earlier inspired me, and that is what drove my project on writing anxiety for her class.
I can say with a whole heart; freewriting has helped me, in a sense, to control my writing anxiety and also feel more competent in my writing. Even while conducting the research proposal, I found my self taking time to freewrite to get my thoughts together. The hardest part for me has been in the methods section. That’s when I used Elbow’s technique, and I free wrote for ten minutes on all the ideas I had for the methods section, then I evaluated what was on the page. The methods section became more evident to me, it still needs work, however, and I am still going to freewrite to come up with more ideas out of the million ideas already running through my brain.
I didn’t even realize until writing this blog post how important freewriting has been to me. I am happy I chose a topic for my research proposal that I feel so strongly about, even if I feel incompetent, I know I will get through it with freewriting. It makes me that much more excited to see the results at the end of my research project to see if there are significant effects of freewriting on students writing in the long run.