The essential question, really, is this: what helps students write better?
Some believe that the only way to "write better" is through the further acquisition of rule-based grammar, punctuation, and
mechanics. Such a myth is the fault of schooling, of failing to make plain
the most obvious idea in the world—real people in real
situations don't write to show off their grammar; they write to
communicate something important (be it meaningful or memorable or purely transactional).
Writing improves when we are determined but patient, when we make writing a daily habit. Such a practice builds the
type of fluency and ease on the page that's needed in order to communicate clearly in print. For me, I know that freewriting is a
place to GENERATE thoughts, rather than just to document ideas (so much
of what we call "improvement" in writing occurs cognitively). My best
ideas have never come from just thinking about things in my mind; my best
ideas have come from trying to think aloud onto the page, and then
sincerely responding to what I've written—engaging in a
discussion with myself that maps itself as its written (and
thus leaves a record, data for further learning). And that, really, is
journaling allows us to experience writing as a form of discovery, of discussion—both with ourselves and our audience (which is partly one in the same).