Writing without a net 


There are good reasons to create an outline before you write and with longer pieces, I usually do. I choose an idea, a working title, a list of points I want to cover, and some examples or stories to include. I often change these, but it gives me a place to start. 

Which is usually the most difficult part of the writing process. 

With shorter pieces, I rarely outline because I have only a fragment of an idea floating around in my head. 

Someone asked me a (marketing or productivity) question; I saw an article about a subject that interested me; I learned something from a video I wanted to share. That’s usually enough to prime my writing pump and I start writing, often with little or no idea of what I’m going to say. 

Which is what I’m doing right now. 

The genesis of what you’re reading is an article I read about writing blog posts. I zeroed in on the subject of outlining and realized I had something to say about that—that despite the value of outlining, it’s not always necessary, and sometimes, makes the writing more difficult. 

You can just start writing and see where it goes.   

Yes, it’s usually messy. Without an outline, sometimes you waste a lot of time trying to find your message and the best way to present it. But the other way, outlining first, can be equally messy and time consuming, especially when you think you know what you want to say (but don’t) or, as I often do, you change your message (often several times) before you finish. 

I also find that writing without an outline often leads to “fresher” writing. Instead of pure logic, you’re guided by what feels right, just as extemporaneous speaking often does.

It sounds like I’m saying, “Don’t force it, do what works for you” and I am. As a busy professional who has other things to do, strictly adhering to what your English teacher (or law professor) said to do isn’t the aim. It is to get something on paper and out the door.

IRAC be damned.