: outlines are bossy :

teacherWhen I see an outline, I see a fussy little despot. On a good day, I’ll see a To Do list. But either way, it’s a buzz kill and not the helpful, practical tool everyone believes. Let me explain why.

Like you, I was introduced to outlines in a 5th grade English class. I didn’t like them from the get-go. All the fancy, highfalutin talk about logical ordering and overviews, about organizing ideas and grouping thoughts was malarkey. It was more work, plain and simple. I liked the sound of ideas, that was promising, but the gibberish about logic was off-putting. You see, there isn’t a logical bone in my body.

Besides, I’m a spur-of-the-moment girl — oh, why lie? I’m slapdash. I go where my mind takes me, I don’t plan. Or predict. Or have the vaguest notion where I’m headed.* I just pick up a pencil and, puttputtputtputt, off I 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, is to keep you focused. In itself, that’s not a bad thing; focus is necessary. But I*magic carpet*’m more partial to wiggle room, thank you, and 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 mapped out for you. 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 like 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 the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

Now, who’s ready to diagram sentences?


hat* Forgive me, I’m taking the day off to do whatever the Hell I feel like. This post applies the same standard to outlines, so it’s perfect for a reblog. If all goes according to plan I’ll have a new piece ready on the 14th, with the working title of Bad Luck Shoes. Yep, I blame my shoes for trying to kill me, not myself for being an idiot. Thank you, come again.


copyright © 2016 the whirly girl

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