Tag Archives: politicsdaily.com

Throwing Away The Outline (In Writing And Life)

There’s a lot to be said for having an outline when you write.

It gives a structure to your story. It reminds you where you are when you wander off to embellish some minor – but important – point and then realize that you’ve wandered so far you have no idea where you started. Above all, it’s just reassuring:  it suggests that you may actually get to the end of whatever it is you’re writing.

I usually work from a sort of loose outline when I write. Occasionally, I don’t. I just sit down with a bunch of points I want to make and improvise my way towards a conclusion. Usually – about half way through that sort of writing – I figure out what I really wanted to say. And once in a while, I create a really detailed, formal outline of exactly how I’m going to proceed with a given piece.

I used this last strategy – to my own detriment – last week on a feature I’m writing for PoliticsDaily.com about the BBC (watch this space.) It’s a topic that’s obsessed me for as long as I’ve lived in the UK, and I’ve been dying to write about it for years. But I needed to wait until there was a news hook to have an excuse to write the article.

But when I finally sat down to write, I had so much material buzzing around my head – research…interviews…newsclips…my own experiences – that I was a bit overwhelmed. So I started outlining. And outlining. And outlining some more.

I thought that this would help me write the piece more quickly. But the truth was – when I actually put pen to paper (or fingertips to keys), I was so immersed in the subject matter that the points I wanted to make just flowed on their own. So I ended up tossing my outline aside and just running with it. I let the piece “write itself” as it were, rather than trying so hard to control it.

And guess what? It came out much more quickly. And I realized after a few days that I probably could have finished the whole thing much sooner if I’d just given into the creative process rather than obsessively trying to outline my way through it.

This is true in life as well. You see, I’m a planner. (Some might – ahem – say I plan too much. Darling? Is that you?) I tend to approach things that make me stressed (read: just about everything) by scheduling:  carefully planning out my time,  putting dates in the calendar, making endless to-do lists. But we all know that life is best lived in the moment, not through an outline.

I’m trying to keep this in mind as I gear up for my upcoming move which will occupy a lot of psychological real estate in my head over the next six or seven weeks. As I near the move date, my instinct will be to immerse myself in the boxes and the movers and the change-of-address forms. And, sure, those things need to happen.

But what I should really focus on is how happy I am that we are moving to a bigger space, with really nice views, right next to a gigantic park, where my kids can play football (soccer) and run around. And I can take long walks and chill. And *that’s* what this move is about.

Watch this space.

Image: Outlining by dmscvan via Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

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Friday Pix: Recommended Reading For The Weekend

This Friday I point you to some recommended reading around the blogosphere:

1. I thoroughly enjoyed this in-depth description of what it’s *really* like to read something on the Kindle by Nicholson Baker in last week’s New Yorker. Especially loved how he threw in the odd literary reference throughout the piece. Fun writing!

2. Beautifully written piece on The Wilderness of Childhood by Michael Chabon in the New York Times Book Review about a month or so ago that I just discovered. The sentiment isn’t all that original but the writing is.

3. Slate ran a thought-provoking series entitled “The End of America” this week by Josh Levin. Among the things he contemplates:  climate change, totalitarian rule and Mormonism. Pick your pleasure.

4. This was a particularly moving account of the impact of the recession on one family in the Washington Post.

5. My two cents on a new immigration reform proposal here in the UK over at politicsdaily.com.

6. Finally, in the realm of “just because,” here are Ten Things You Didn’t Know About the Penny.

*****

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Friday Pix: Recommended Reading For The Weekend

This Friday, I point you to some worthwhile reading around the blogosphere:

1. Find out when middle-age kicked in for you by taking this musical quiz in the Chicago Tribune.

2. Apparently, the key to avoiding dementia  is getting married…and drinking more coffee.

3. Have a look at the best advertisements to save the planet in The Guardian.

4. Newsweek tells us that boomers have been responsible for economic stability over time. Speaking of economics, have a look at the Freakonomics Q and A with White House economist Austan Goolsbee. He’s very thoughtful and also pretty funny.

5. Two great ways to catch up on the news: The Daily Beast Cheat Sheet and Michael Kraskin’s Politics Dailies over at politicsdaily.com.

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