doubting and believing in freewriting
Peter Elbow


our manifesto

We had stayed up late into the evening, the two of us, ice clinking in our glasses, the oakey scent of bourbon on our breath, extolling the virtues of Trader Joe’s as we popped one toasted sesame-coated almond after another into our mouths, freely talking about writing, which is not the same as freely writing about… well… anything, really.

We are unabashed expressivists with an agenda: To free expressivism from the constraints that currently hold it hostage. To make expressivism necessary again, we might have to free freewriting, sever its “free” association and wonder, what’s so free about it?

Like Lad Tobin, Chris Burnham, and bell hooks, we reject rejections of an expressivist theory/practice: we remain attracted and committed to many of its components each time we teach or tutor: workshopping (an antitextbook approach to teaching writing that values peer response), authentic telling, the doubting game and the believing game.


somebody else's

An immense pride was buoying us up, because we felt ourselves alone at that hour, alone, awake, and on our feet, like proud beacons or forward sentries against an army of hostile stars glaring down at us from their celestial encampments. Alone with stokers feeding the hellish fires of great ships, alone with the black specters who grope in the red-hot bellies of locomotives launched on their crazy courses, alone with drunkards reeling like wounded birds along the city walls.



dialogues and exchanges

We create our own doubting and believing in freewriting manifesto:

  1. Write from a place that is in you. The Rust Belt; The Bayou: the places of our starts, the places of our poor preparation. Garbage in. Garbage out.
  2. Resist the scary spentness of working with handy-dandy tools.
  3. Require sustenance from the village well, but do not encourage sipping from the same chalice.
  4. Take a stand you're not entirely convinced of.
  5. Don't. Stop. Don't…Stop…dontstop.
  6. Engage in useful binary thinking: constraint-compulsion; generational-generative; solace-noise; patrician-plumber; fast capitalism-slow jiao; theocratic phenomenology-democratic phenomenon.