Like you, I was introduced to the wretched things in a 6th grade English class. I didn’t like them from the get-go. The talk about logical ordering and overviews, about organizing ideas and grouping? Baloney. It was more work, plain and simple. I liked the sound of ideas, that was promising, but the talk about logical ordering was really unnerving. You see, I don’t have a logical bone in my body.
Besides, I’m a spur-of-the-moment girl — wait, why lie? I’m slapdash. I go wherever my mind takes me, I don’t plan. Or predict. Or have the vaguest notion where we’re headed. I just pick up a pencil and, puttputtputtputt, off we go. My brain leads the way. How does one put that in outline form? One doesn’t. Not if one wants a passing grade.
Outlines, with their headings and hierarchies and subsections and fancy Roman numerals, take all the fun out of writing. They leave no room for surprises or flights of fancy, acting as they do as an anchor on imagination. Their purpose, it seems, their raison d’être is to keep you focused. In itself, that’s not a bad thing; focus is necessary. But I’m more partial to wiggle room, thank you, lots of it.
A wandering mind is a happy mind, that’s what I say. And a happy mind is a wondrous thing. When you have an outline, your course has been set. Mapped out, so to speak. What’s left to think about? Where is there to wander? This goes here, that goes there, follow the bouncing ball. That’s not fun, it’s akin to watching a movie when you know the ending.
Detours, those are fun. Ditto for sudden turns and flying blind and wild goose chases. You might not know where they’ll lead or what you’ll find on the way, but you know the trip will be a gas. The worst you can expect is an occasional dead-end, but so what?
You’re just as likely to stumble into an epiphany and that, my friends, is what we all seek: a dazzling flash of insight and revelation and understanding. That moment when everything makes brilliant sense. It’s our pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
Now, who’s ready to diagram sentences?
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