Monday, April 5, 2010

Percolating Writing

One of the difficulties I run into in writing is making sure I do an adequate amount of thinking for each piece. Some pieces take only a few minutes of thinking while others can take hours of planning. Some pieces have actually taken me over a month to think about before I felt ready to write about it.

As such, sometimes I run into the problem of trying to construct a piece when I have done an insufficient amount of thinking. Those pieces I usually end up either leaving uncompleted or deleting them upon completion, no matter how much time I spent writing them. (I don't feel bad about not having a product to show for my work since the actual writing serves as practice anyhow.) On some rare occasions I have recognized that I did an insufficient amount of thinking, went and did some introspecting, and then came back to the piece and wrote beautifully.

I would like to remedy this problem of underthinking an idea. It's the reason why I don't do as exhaustive writing as I've done before, like with Dr. Doolittleism in Foreign Policy and Slavery or the Highway: "Volunteerism", which I consider to be some of my best writing.

Here's an idea I got spontaneously yesterday while walking. I thought about how I remedied my underthinking before by actually starting work on the piece and then noting my deficiencies, and going back to do additional introspection, which cured my problem. What I was thinking of doing is this: When I get the urge to write extensively on some subject, I'll go out and construct a detailed outline on it, including clustering ideas, writing the theme, organizing the points, and all, and then afterwards putting the outline down for an indefinite amount of time so that I can gather more introspective material. In other words, turn my outlining into a process in which drafting applies.

Already I am seeing benefits to the drafting process. I have outlined a piece I don't plan on writing for a while due to a need for more evidence, but already I've noticed that after completing the outline I came upon new thoughts I want to include in that piece, thoughts that would have been otherwise neglected if I had taken to writing the piece right away.

I don't know how well this will work, but it's worth trying. This isn't a self-improvement venture I plan on tracking on this blog; I just thought it would be worthwhile to share a possible good writing practice.

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