Self-reflections and informal lessons on the art of writing

A fountain pen stock image

I've considered myself to be a casual writer for most of my life; being proud of my style of prose be it for career, comedy, or scholastic essays.

I once had a short chapter book masquerading as an observational humour blog. I've always done fairly well on scholastic or professional reports. Over the past year I've started to dive into publishing more UX-focused blogs and articles.

But I've never, ever liked drafting an outline before I started writing.

(This is a good time to recognise self-deprecating, snickering comments and nods like, "We figured that out already!". It's all in good fun.)

It wasn't until tonight that I understood why; why it feels so naturally liberating to go with the flow and let my fingers improvise their dance across the keyboard...

I prefer to be taken on my own journey.

I want to go on my own adventure; never knowing where I'll end up, what examples I'll use, or what nuggets of information I'll conjure up along the way.

I think that it's about the time when we've progressed past spelling bees, but haven't yet had to write a term paper (admittedly quite a gap), that we were taught to first write a guideline for what we want to cover before a single word of content.

I am and am not a planner in my day to day life. I can't quite explain how that works, but trying to create a paper or article outline has never been my thing. It feels like a burden; a creative barrier preventing me from simply writing.

Where do I want to lead the reader? What specific points do I want to make? What structure do I want to follow? How long should it be? I make a living from knowing what and how to ask the right questions at the right times, yet the desire to do so eludes me like an active avoidance to define and adhere to a pre-structured writing approach.

My golden key and suggestion for all who are having a hard time writing is to wash, rinse, repeat.

You take a shower because the outcome you want is to feel, smell, and look clean. I believe that as long as you keep that final outcome in the forefront of your mind, that overarching thought dying to be conveyed, then you'll be successful. Granted, validating success is a different subject entirely.

So try to write that opening sentence and see how you feel. Is it building up to the outcome you want? Does it sound enticing? Are you feeling content and ready to move on to the next or does it need to be washed and scrubbed some more?

Feel free to keep some experimental thoughts, quotes, and lines on the side for future editing consideration. Rinse them away as needed until you feel more confident about the cleanliness of your message and flow. (Yes, I'm getting a little carried away with this metaphor, but there's no stopping now!)

Repeat. See what you come up with. Take a break and come back tomorrow. Change it all if it's not taking you where you wanted. Let your mind wonder while holding true to that candle of an idea lighting your way.

There's freedom to be found in writing for yourself without guidelines, outlines, or plans. Every journey has a story or lesson to bring back and share.