If you seek to earn all A’s and B’s, you’ll have to become comfortable and fluent with your writing, as well as with editing your own writing. If you think you’re bad at writing, there’s nothing to worry about; it’s probably because you’ve been mis-taught, and you can still learn everything you need to know without stressing. If you can think and talk, you can become a good writer. Choosing an overall method for composing and revising essays and reports is a smart first step.
Two widely used student methods are (1) the outlining method and (2) the freewriting method. The outlining method is the one most familiar to students because it is widely taught in schools. The freewriting method is frequently used by professional writers, including creative writers.
The outlining method is used primarily to organize and present existing knowledge, and the freewriting method is used primarily to develop new ideas, principles and connections.
In the outlining method, you brainstorm and do research until you have a list of ideas, then you place them in an order that fits the assignment. Then you expand each point, using more brainstorming and research as needed.
In freewriting, you begin by focusing on your subject and spontaneously writing as much as you can, as fast as you can, without pausing or stopping, for a specific period of time, usually twelve minutes. Then you edit the results, deleting the irrelevant and adding more ideas as needed. See the Freewriting Method page on this website for a guide on this approach, which is the one used by most professionals.
Plusses for the outlining method: If you prefer being orderly and systematic and to know your conclusion clearly before you begin, this method can work for you. Once you have your outline, your work primarily becomes a “fill-in-the-blanks” exercise.
For the freewriting method, the plusses include not having to know your conclusion before you start writing, but developing it through getting all your ideas down first. With freewriting, you never having writer’s block: if your ideas stop, you just continually write “What’s next?” until new ideas emerge. You’re writing freely to produce a large mass of ideas, and after that, you find an outline within what you’ve already written. Think of how Michelangelo said he would confront an untouched block of marble, and then chisel away at it until he “found” the figure waiting within the mass of stone.
Why use outlining if you’re a freewriter? After you’ve come up with your freewritten mass of ideas, you can then outline systematically until you have a finished product. Why switch to freewriting if you’re an outliner? Tried and true methods may have always brought you good grades, but for those who seek great careers, A’s and B’s are not enough. Good grades might just show that you know the rules of the game as it exists presently. Is this suitable for your level of potential, or should you strive to be a deep learner and a game-changer? #####