There are two sides of your brain, the right and the left.

The Left Side is Logical and Analytical

It breaks down big things into smaller bits

It analyzes, measures, and orders.

The Right Side is Creative and Emotional

It combines small things into a whole.

It abstracts, qualifies, and reconfigures.

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In school, you have spent years testing an developing your left brain because that is the side that can be tested.  Left brain knowledge is QUANTIFIABLE (measurable).  So, when you start out on a writing project, this is what starts running through your brain:

 Writing an Essay

You really need both sides of your brain to write.  So, in an effort to wake up your right-brain, we use something called “prewriting.” 

In this module, you will try three types of prewriting:  Mapping, Freewriting, and Focused Freewriting.

Let’s get started!



Ok, for this one we are moving back to your brain.  You have little bits of information all over your brain, and they are connected by pathways.  Sometimes we have to remember one thing to remember another. This is how our memory works.

Brail Illustration

So, in order to remember what I wore on my first day of kindergarten, I might have to, first, remember my grandmother’s address when I was five (and as you can see, the pathways are fading!).  We always retain the memories, but sometimes we lose the access to those memories! 

This is where mapping comes in!  Mapping gives us a map of our memories and connections, and helps us retrieve information we might have forgotten.


As you can see–the map is not exactly the same as the brain map, but it follows the same principles.  There are memories, and they are connected to one another.  It isn’t necessarily the memories that are the most important thing–it is the connections between the memories that make a good piece of writing.

Now, try it yourself:

  1. Put a word or phrase into the center of a page. Circle it. (If you can’t think of a good one right now, use “home.”)
  2. Now, write other words that you associate with that original word around it, and put circles around those words. 
  3. Now, working with whatever secondary words you came up with, write some words around those words. 
  4. Connect the words.  How are they related?

OK!  You have made you first mind map!  You can also find mind-mapping websites by searching “mind mapping” with your favorite search engine.  Here’s a page with 24 different tools you can use.



When you do freewriting, I want you to think of what it is like to take a very big dog for a walk . . .

Which is actually the dog taking you for a walk! 

Now, imagine that your brain1 is the dog, and you are the old lady.  When you are freewriting, you follow along with your brain while it runs after rabbits and sniffs under bushes.  Don’t try to direct it!  You just write about whatever it comes up with.

So, before you do it, please read over these rules to freewriting. (I know!  I know!  It seems like freewriting should be free, and their shouldn’t be any rules!!)  

Freewriting Rules

In order to freewrite successfully, you must shut down the left side of your brain completely. This is how you do it:

  1. Set a Time Limit of 5 minutes, and set a timer so you don’t have to keep looking up at the clock. (Hint: Use the timer function of your phone!)
  2. You must keep writing.  You can’t stop for the full 5 minutes.  If you can’t think of anything to write, write “I can’t think of anything to write,” over and over and over again until your brain finds something for you to write.
  3. Nothing is as important as getting out the writing.  Can’t spell something? Invent a spelling.  Can’t think of the right word? Just stick something in there.  Don’t worry about punctuation, spelling, grammar, or anything else.  You are writing this for you, not for a teacher or an editor!!
  4. NO EDITING!!!  This is the perfect opportunity for your left brain to try to take over.  Don’t let it!!  Keep writing.  Don’t stop to edit. Don’t go back.  You can do that later. Right now, just let the writing flow!!
  5. Don’t try to direct the subject.  Yeah, yeah.  You started with something perfectly sane like “Why I write” and half-way through you are writing about a giraffe eating mushrooms.  That’s what is supposed to happen.  Let it happen!  Don’t try to direct this, just let go.

READY?  OK. Set your time and GO!! 

Don’t stop for ANYTHING!!


Sometimes, you need to be especially focused but still get some stuff onto the paper.  For example, let’s say you have been studying all night for a math test.  You are worried that you will forget half the stuff you studied before you even begin the test because you are so tired.

That’s where Focused Freewriting comes in!

When the teacher hands out the test, DON’T TURN IT OVER!!  DON’T READ IT!! (If you do, your brain will dump everything you studied and you have just failed!!)

Take a blank sheet of paper (or the back of the test), and write down everything you remember from studying.  Take 5 minutes.  Do it.  Don’t stop for anything.  In fact, the first four rules for freewriting is what you need to do here. 

When you are done, you will have everything down on paper in case you forget something later. 

Yes!  That’s how you Ace that exam!!

You can also use Focused Freewriting to take any essay test.  Just freewrite on some word or phrase for five minutes–but stay focused on the topic.

This will help you free up some ideas to approach your essay!!

Try it now! 

Let’s say you get the question:  “Write about your most embarrassing moment.”

Try focus freewriting on the word “embarrassing.” (Remember, use your timer!)

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