Time Management Tricks for Strategic Outlining

“We all do what scientists call Mermaid hunter smallmental practice or mental rehearsing when we memorize answers for a test, learn lines for a play, or rehearse any kind of performance or presentation. But because few of us do it systematically, we underestimate its effectiveness.”

Norman Doige.The Brain That Changes Itself. From Chapter 2, “Imagination”.

If we’re going to fit full-time writing careers into our full-time lives, it’s a great thing to understand how brain plasticity can help writers work on our stories with celerity and pleasure. The better we understand our brains and how focus can help us, the better we write.

The brain, in its helpful plasticity, follows lines and types of thinking. When organizing a work day, a play day or a trip to the mall, the mind of a writer is in planning mode. Authors can use that particular type of organizational focus to outline and plan our manuscripts while we’re at it. Three ways to do it:

  1. You’re checking your calendar, jotting your shopping list, your stops through the day, and if you love your writing work, it’s a happy bonus to carve out three minutes right then to use that organizing focus to think out an outline of a scene, or steps to and through a heavy choice/turning point for a character.
  2. The same strength of focus directed at non-writing tasks transfers neatly to a three-minute brainstorming session. Perhaps you try for twenty different settings, or ways that a character might make a choice, or any plot point. Thinking twenty in plotting a story takes editors from, “seen-it-so-many-times” to “well-this-is-intriguing.”
  3. If you carry a graphic organizer/outlining sheet, whether it’s a thinking web, a crystal, or simply a list of story beats, you are set up to work on a story, scene, or character for three minutes while you plan your day.

Three minutes of outlining, listing, and plotting here and there during the week will save an untold number of hours creating the finished story, with less revision required for your first draft. As well, rather than trying to split your focus by planning and drafting at the same time when you do sit down to take advantage of a treasured full hour or two, it’s pleasing to draft when you’ve already had a chance to come up with a great idea.
The beauty of using tight focus and brain plasticity to help manage your writing process is a bit like boogie boarding. You paddle and the wave rises, you catch it, and you ride it.

Norman Doige.The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science, a great, heroic read.

There’s nothing like waking to know that you’re going to do the work you love today.

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