Writing Without Teachers by Peter Elbow

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It goes without saying that writing skills are crucial for a blogger. Peter Elbow’s «Writing Without Teachers» is a classic book on writing which is still fresh, full of interesting ideas and useful advice.

This book is not about «good writing» and «bad writing». You won’t find there advice on grammatical constructions or usage. Instead, this book can help you generate words more powerfully and make better judgements about your writing.

Peter Elbow is one of the most notable proponents of freewriting, an immensely liberating writer’s technique helping to unlock the power of words. This approach is especially helpful to people who get blocked in their writing, and is equally useful for any writing, be it fiction, poetry, essays, or memos.

Peter Elbow considers freewriting practice the most effective way to improve writing. He offers to do freewriting exercises at least 3 times a week. The idea of freewriting is very simple: just write for 5 to 10 minutes without stopping, looking back, wondering about spelling, or word choice. I described the freewriting technique in full detail here.

The idea behind freewriting is that schooling has made us obsessed with mistakes. We are used to censor not only our words, but also our thoughts and feelings, which blocks us from genuine self expression. ‎ Elbow makes important distinction between writing and editing modes. Both are important, but not at the same time: write first, edit later.

The final part of the book is about the teacherless writing class. Writing is not just about getting things down on paper, but also about getting things inside our reader’s head. We need to understand how our readers perceive and experience our writing.

Basically, a writing class is a group that meets regularly and where everyone reads everyone else’s writing and gives feedback on how the writer’s words were experienced.

A very important point: a teacherless writing class is not about advice on what to improve in a text, nor about theories on what is good and bad writing. The most valuable feedback you could give is to show movies happening inside your mind as you’re reading.

Another influential book by Peter Elbow I highly recommend is «Writing with Power: Techniques for Mastering the Writing Process». He himself describes it as a writer’s cookbook and it’s worth this title — take a look at it, too!

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