Where’s Your Outline?

As I have mentioned in a previous post, although I was an English major in college and taught English to high school and middle school students, writing an outline was never one of my strong points. It always seemed like such a major extra step before writing an essay, because I actually enjoy the revision process. So why do all of this pre-planning when it was much easier to just let the ideas flow?

One of my current endeavors involves me having to write an article, and I have been vainly trying to put together my article outline for far too long. I finally completed said outline over the weekend, and the weight lifted off my shoulders has been tremendous. With my outline in place, writing the full text is going to be a piece of cake. It is in these small moments of victory when I wonder why I was being such a procrastinator in the first place.

Of late, I have also been involved in a lot of planning: creating a timeline for our upcoming reunion this fall; organizing a team-building staff meeting; putting together a professional development session focused on standardized testing. It has occurred to me that part of the reason why I loathe “writing an outline” is because it is time-consuming. It requires having a clear purpose to why I’m doing what I’m doing. It forces me to do research, get on the same page with other people, coordinate efforts, condense my ideas… all of those things can be exhausting. The planning often feels much more taxing than the execution of the idea itself. At the same time, the process of planning (read: writing the outline) can be rewarding in and of itself and lead to greater clarity around the goal.

Somewhere in my teaching I heard or read a quote that went something like this: “I’d rather take an eraser to a blueprint than an axe to a foundation.” In other words, revising or adjusting plans is far easier than having to undo actions that didn’t make sense or didn’t move toward one’s intended outcome. It has taken me up until this last month or so to internalize that thought more deeply and start to think harder about how I want to be applying the same principle to my life. While I have no intention to try to control every single second of my day, I find that having a plan in place is comforting; that way, when things seem to deviate off course, I have a sense of where I’ve left off in my “outline.”

Right now, Husband and I want to find a house. We want to start a family. We want to develop our respective career paths. Those things don’t necessarily happen just because we want them to. It is up to us to make plans, to have the hard discussions with each other, to have moments of internal dialogue so we can create a basic outline of steps to complete to lead us forward. While I know that this process will be challenging, I also know that it will also be rewarding and hopeful as we look toward our future together.


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