You’re facing blankly at a writing editor, be it Word, Textedit or any document writing app. You start typing words and ideas flow. You stop, delete and reword. You get stuck with and idea that doesn’t seem to come out right, but you keep on writing. You struggle really hard to finish the thing. You tell yourself there must be a better way to do this. A faster way to do this. Well, there is. You just have to try them to see if they work for you.
There are many techniques to use to get you writing, but nothing has worked for me like outlining. Brainstorming and free-writing help, but outlining has added benefits. Like brainstorming and free-writing, it starts that spark, but it also gives you a blueprint for what you’re going to be writing about. First it gives you focus. Since you’re structuring ideas, it’s not so easy to digress and get off topic. Also there’s a coherence that’s always maintained in every paragraph you write. And finally, the time issue. The time it used to take me to finish any writing project was extremely ridiculous.
I’m not following academic guidelines to outline and I don’t think you need to. Unless your writing a college essay or thesis, and an outline is required, than all you need is a simple convention like main idea and bulleted list or numbered list. I don’t even use roman numerals. I use it as a guide to focus on a single paragraph actually. The main purpose is to have a skeleton of what your going to write about.
This is an example of an outline I did for a blog post:
My Twitter Experience
- How much I’ve been using it
- Why I use it
- Is it worthwhile
- What is Twitter
- The Early Adopter Crowd
- The Resource Argument
- The Breaking News Argument
As you can see, in now way this is following academic conventions of outlining.
I know this is 9th grade level stuff to a lot of you, but I suspect a lot people forgot about it or haven’t tried it. I specially suggest outlining to scattered thinkers like myself. It helps you with time, staying coherent and staying focused. It sure beats the hell out of pounding randomly at the keyboard and driving yourself crazy organizing that giant blob of thoughts.