Prewriting: CubingWriter's Web
by Melanie Dawson
(printable version here)

Cubing is a writing exercise used as a prewriting technique. Cubing, forcing a writer to think and re-think a topic, allows a writer to explore various aspects of that topic.

We all know that a cube has six sides. If you had to describe that cube, you would try to discuss each side of the object. Of course, you would have to change your perspective in order to examine and write about the cube's six faces. This exercise challenges you to examine various perspectives of an object or idea.

The first time you attempt a cubing exercise, follow these guidelines:

  • Choose a small, three-dimensional object. Choose an object that is somewhat geometric in shape; a round object would not be appropriate for this exercise.
  • Place the object in front of you and write for two minutes about what you see.
  • When your time is up, turn the object a little and write for two minutes about that side of the object.
  • Next write about the underside. Keep turning the object until you have written about six aspects (or sides) of it.
  • Be fairly strict with your time-keeping.
  • Don't get frustrated if you feel you can write more about one side of the object than another. For the sake of the exercise, just keep writing. Push yourself to discover as much as you can about the object and about your descriptive abilities.

Remember how you wrote your cubing exercise using an object. Now try the exercise again; this time write about a concept or an idea rather than a concrete object. You may want to test out a topic for a paper or a writing assignment:

  • Time your writing with a clock or timer so that you write about six aspects of your topic for equal amounts of time.
  • Push yourself to write about at least six views of your topic even if you can only think of three or four initially.
  • Even if you think you know what your topic and thesis statement will be, try cubing for a few minutes. You may discover a new "angle" for your paper and create new avenues of discussion that will give depth to your argument. Cubing may also help you determine the most interesting aspect of your topic. You then have a good start on focusing your paper.

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