outlines vs organic writing

When I was a teacher we were continually being led to believe that everyone was a type.  Students had learning styles.  Teachers were concrete or random thinkers and that this influenced their methods. And that we had strong and weak intellectual areas. Anything and everything could be divined through questionnaires and personality testing.

The same holds true for writers, I have discovered.  We are owls or hummingbirdsPantsers or Planners.

I am a hummingbird with pantser tendencies. I flit and float and twitter (not literally, I really don’t like Twitter.  It’s writing for the ADHD set),  and though I have a general idea of where a piece of writing is going,  I don’t have a written plan.

I have tried to outline.  God knows that my 11th grade composition teacher, Sr. Mary Catherine, god bless her in whatever corner of hell she is standing in right now, tried to tie me to outlining. I learned how to create one, grudgingly, but never did learn how to stick to it. What happened more often than not was that I would get a better idea and then have to go back and change the outline to fit the paper I was writing for her. This soured me to the usefulness of outlines because they seemed to me to stifle any thought of creative spark and spontaneity and made more detail work for me in the bargain.

Now that I am writing novel length pieces, however, I am beginning to see the point of the owls and the planners. It’s far too easy to get lost in a long story than a short one when you are not a map person. I am actually a “landmark” navigator which amuses my husband to no end.

There is a term for what I do as a writer. It’s called “organic” writing.  Another way of saying that one has no real clue of what one is doing.

But writing is proceeding, people, and decisions about where effort and time are best spent loom large.