I began writing when I was fourteen years old and, since then, I have been told many times that outlines are the way to go for writing everything but poetry. However, in the twenty-five years since then I have learned that I am the weird one that doesn’t function well with an outline. Instead, I spend days, weeks, and sometimes even months writing in my head. I gather ideas as I observe the people and places around me, as well as my past experiences. I keep a running note in my phone where I gather little phrases, funny anecdotes, and ideas that I find interesting. Eventually all this creative research brings me to a pivotal moment where I feel I will burst if I don’t sit down and write. This is when I disappear down the proverbial rabbit hole of my office and place my do not disturb sign on the door.
With a whirlwind of keystrokes I can write for days with what I have stored in my head, and I end up doing just that. Whenever I get stuck on something I will consult my handy notes for inspiration and, when that doesn’t work, I walk away like it is a puzzle. I use that time to have a mini brainstorm while I do a few household chores, call a friend, or have a cup of coffee while watching the squirrels in my yard. Eventually, I arrive at what feels right for my story, drop what I am doing, and go back down my rabbit hole. I find outlines to be limiting for me because it stifles my ability to follow my own creative process. What I end up with usually works very well but admittedly not all the time. That is what my revision process is all about.
Once I feel my stored-up story is tapped out I will set it aside for several days to a week and then come back to it. I remember one in particular was thwarted by my love of plot twists and I had thrown way too many into it. I was left with something that seemed like two separate plots were warring with each other. I took the time to return it back to my original plot idea and was much more pleased with the result. I learned a lesson that day. My gloriously weird whirlwind of a creative process only works when I exercise self-control.