I think there is a time to "just buckle down and write." However, as other posts on this thread indicate, writing can be much more productive when there is a plan, traditionally known as an outline. With a good outline, one can focus on writing manageable chunks that will eventually be part of an effective whole. Writing these chunks can make great next actions.Originally Posted by rough-draft
In my years of teaching writing, I have noticed that even my most "creative" writers blossom when they must follow a strict conceptual stucture. Mozart, one of the most creative musical geniuses ever, wrote music that adhered to rigid structure of form, melody, harmony, and rhythm.
It's when you have to develop your own structure, and don't know what structure will best serve a particular piece, that writing is hardest.
I sometimes work as a writing consultant for computer scientists who are amazingly smart people, but who have difficulty expressing their ideas. One problem is that they do not start with a clear idea of the take-home message of their successful paper or proposal. This concept is analogous to the GTD question "What's the desired successful outcome?" Having a clear idea of the main point of one's writing is the first step in the outlining or planning process.
The next step is to ask, "What are the different pieces that will prove that main point (or convey that impression, or elicit that response, or whatever the successful outcome is)?" Mind mapping, outlining, natural planning -- all are techniques that should help accomplish this step. (No single technique, as far as I can see, is "magic," including mind mapping, which has big fans on this forum.) Brainstorming and organizing are both needed here.
The next step is to apply the previous step recursively at each level of the piece you are writing, right down to the paragraph level.
So when do you need to just buckle down and write? First, once you plan down to the paragraph level, you do need to express those ideas in sentences. If you try to make sentences sound good on the first try, you may paralyze your mind. I just try to get the ideas down, no matter how ugly, and revise later. Don't be a perfectionist on your first draft! Second, if your understanding of your writing goal (step one) or how to achieve it (step two) isn't crystal clear (and it often isn't), you may have to develop it through less-structured journal-type writing. You can then use this unstructured stuff to help identify areas in which you need to learn more before you can write about them, or to look for ideas which can then be structured using the steps described above.
These are my opinions based on my research and experience. Thoughts?