Structure is so essential to creativity. But a huge number of creative types refuse it, which is why every writer with any fans at all gets asked:
‘What’s your method?’ Meaning, do you plan things or just let it all hang out? Meaning, how do you just get shit done?
Planning and outlining seems like the way to lose the creative flame: Too logical, too rational. I always used to resist it. Then I grew up. Or rather, I realised how I was holding myself back. Now even the writing I do professionally sits under the banner of Extreme Planning.
I’m not alone.
‘I was always that writer who resisted outlining my books. That’s why it took me two years to write my first book.’ ~ Steff Green
Does that resonate with you, as it did with me? Maybe this apparently rambling post in the New Yorker will too. It’s exactly why things fizzle, why it gets hard to ‘reach’.
For ages, I had a vague idea for my next book. That idea turned into a vague outline as I wrote notes into it. The outline turned into an extensive summary with some vague bits in it (takes a lot of trust in the process – I know it’ll come clear). Then I went full circle and worked from extensive summary to index cards, a la John McPhee.
Right now I’m sitting next to a messy pile of bright yellow, lined index cards; each one is scrawled with key elements and ideas. I’m about to sort my way to structural clarity, with a cup of tea alongside.