Visualize – Vomiting – Reduce Chaos – Form – Refine
This is not a purely linear workflow, sometimes the steps overlap, combine, separate, they’re always in flux. Chaotic vomiting might form a refined visualization, or you might have to refine chaos in order to start verbally vomiting. The gist is that an idea in my head is translated and organized into words on a screen or piece of paper. I like to call this:
VVCTFR (Writing Cluster Fuck for short)
Vomiting – I take a piece of paper and put down ideas in the form of writing, pictures, and arrows connecting one to another. Things are chaotic, but recorded.
Reduce Chaos – From an outline or mindmap, I arrange ideas in a certain way so they’re flowing well and playing together. Then I expand on those ideas, making them more than just jumbled craziness.
Transcribe – I transcribe the main ideas and fragments to Ulysses, my favorite writing program. Small paragraphs go in the main window, words, things to remember go in the notes section. There will be many spelling mistakes, the idea is that the written form of the idea is taking shape.
Form – Here I’m working exclusively in Ulysses (or another writing program), moving between documents and adding specifics to what I’m writing. This is the most critical part, it’s here where I create the final form (more or less) and get ready to export for publishing and formatting.
Refine – At this point everything has been exported into Word or uploaded to my WordPress blog, in the final form for formatting.
I follow this process (more or less) for everything from blog articles to technical papers and dissertations. When I talk with other people I’m floored to hear that they start papers, publications, and dissertations from scratch, without little plan or workflow.
A writer might purpose that too much structure in the writing process reduces creativity. A novelist, for example, might use the act of writing as a way to get to know their characters. The writing process might be seen as a way to develop the story, and hence some writers might advise one against outlining. A writer who doesn’t use outlines is Timothy Hallinan, who seems to take the view that an outline must be a static prelude to writing. He notes that he wants to see how his characters develop,
"I don’t want to know how the story will end until it does."
I’ve found the opposite. I’m a visual thinker, I create stories in a movie form in my head, the challenge is putting those ideas on paper. For myself outlining and mind mapping increases creativity because visual markers in my head (ideas) are easily recorded and rearranged in reality, thus enabling a final form that is done quickly, is original, and as creative as all Hell. I use mind mapping as a dynamic entity, not a stagnant thing that needs to be fully complete before I start writing.
Whatever your view, using a workflow which efficiently translates ideas to text helps in everything from writing a long email, a letter, a PhD, a job application, a business plan, movie script, book, anything the creative author can imagine.
Coming up next in this series, Ulysses – the Kick Ass writing program and Mind Mapping software.