Boring and beautiful: the art of the outline

Bliss. I just finished a huge article. The topic was unwieldy: how boards of embedded theological schools (those that live and breathe on a university campus) can best guide their schools to success. Or kind of. That was kind of the topic.

And that’s the point. I could have gone off in a hundred different directions with the sheer volume of my research coupled with the wide open field of the subject. I could write a book. A book that literally no one would read.

I spent two different sessions of about five hours in total reading through all my research with multi-coloured sticky notes and highlighters. Creating an outline. Then, almost an outline of my outline just to be safe. It was a bit like torture. Then I went to bed, trying not to think about what the next day entailed. Writing the thing. Taming the beast. To my joy, my sub-conscious gave me a gift again. I woke up at 5:00am writing in my head. I tried to ignore it. Buried my face in my pillow. Willed it to stop. But I’ve learned, if I had gone back to sleep I would have lost that work. I got up. Made some tea. Sat down and began to write.

With very few interruptions, seven hours later, a 3200 word bouncing baby was born. It was a smooth delivery. All because of that blessed, boring outline.

 

4 Comments

  1. Hi Karren, I can’t agree with you more on the issue of outlining – the most boring yet very rewarding exercise. It normally takes me more than two days to think through my outline and my thesis statement, but once I have it done then everything else falls into place. Where is the “baby” we read it?

  2. Great description of the subconscious contribution to problem soling as a writer. The fact you are willing to sweat the outline is a sign of being a writer – not merely a wanna-be or pretender. Every time I short-circuit the outline process, I get bogged down and often waste a LOT of time.

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