Think first, write later


 “Poirot,” I said. “I have been thinking.”
“An admirable exercise my friend. Continue it.”
― Agatha ChristiePeril at End House

Have you ever responded to an offensive or distressing email without thinking first?  “WHAT?!” you say to yourself, as your fingers agitatedly skim over the keys and, without a second thought…Send. Moments later, you could kick yourself for having been so impulsive.

This has surely happened to all of us, at one time or another.

Or perhaps, as a student, you were seated for your mid-term essay exam and you skimmed the questions quickly, then proceeded to write feverishly because the clock was ticking and you wanted to make sure that you had enough time to answer all the questions. It was only after you handed in the test, that you realized you missed the second part of the question because you didn’t take the time read carefully and organize your thoughts.

Mea culpa, mea culpa.

In the writing world, however, the process varies from writer to writer.  Not everyone likes to adhere to the “think first, write later” principle. Many writers just sit down at the computer (or, if they’re traditionalists, with pen and paper), and write. Then they edit. Stream of consciousness writing works for many and these are the writers who, when at home, probably don’t write shopping lists or who prefer not to structure their time rigidly. They are the free thinkers.  Write first, think while writing, and then edit later.

However, there are just as many writers (myself included) who prefer to organize their thoughts, prior to writing them down.  They do this by notes, index cards, outlines and also by just thinking (or daydreaming) it out in their minds. 

I am a great proponent of outlines.  My book writing process always commences with quiet contemplation… to think carefully about what I want to say and why, who will my readership be and how will I engage their attention. From there, I craft an initial Table of Contents which serves as my starting point and basic outline.  I then begin the initial research process (when research is required for the book) and the results of my initial research prompts me to write a more detailed outline which helps dictate the overall flow of the book. At that point. I move to a more advanced stage of research, finetune the outline further and then I am ready to sit down and write. I prefer to think first, write later. I carry a small  Moleskine reporter’s notebook with me wherever I go, to jot down thoughts. The challenge is being able to read my own messy handwriting later!

There really is no right or wrong process. Ultimately, the objective is to write.  How you get to that point is subject to whatever works for you.

So, think on the fly or  think in advance, but just make sure to carefully review your writing first before pressing that “Send” button!


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