Out with Outline, In with Wastebin

In English classes across the board, the outline is considered a vital part of the writing process. Teachers preach that without an outline, a student has nothing, there is no other way for a paper to get off the ground than by outline. The tedious process of writing out, step by step, you will say in draft number one, which leads then to draft number two, hinders creative energy necessary to progress a paper beyond its beginning stages. The outline is a plague that convinces students that their ideas are held within black and white boxes, that their ideas once written remain constant, and that their ideas are valued for their presence on paper rather than on their creation.

What is done in an outline can be done in the mind. The step-by-step approach a student takes to writing a paper can be formulated without expulsion from the mind. The ideas have the right marinate in the head where connections from one concept, to the next, to one previously unrecognized, to an overarching concept that directs the student and writer to an outcome that they initially had no conception of. When writing is put on paper, it is seen as absolute, that it is the very definition of what the writer wanted from the begging. But if we look at writing as the pursuit of defining life, the pursuit of discovering how oneself fits into the world around them, how the world around them fits in them, and how the world itself fits into the worlds of everyone else, then there is little room for absolutes besides the answer to the one question that truly matters that has yet to be solved.

Less experienced writers gravitate towards the outline for its formulaic benefits. Writing is no easy task, so to be given a structure as advised by the “supreme writer” in the room, the teacher, puts students at ease. I’ll put this idea in the form of metaphor. When moving to a new town, one considers first and foremost where they can acquire life essentials such as food, water, gas, and so on and so forth. This task is very overwhelming and requires a few days’ worth of exploration and discovery and rediscovery. By rediscovery, I mean that there may be better deals offered in one supermarket as compared to the first supermarket the person bought groceries from, or the pharmacy first chosen is located next to a ruckus inducing canning factory and the second is neighbored by a park filled with potential friends.

There is more than meets the eye, and it is up to teachers to guide their students to a place where they see writing as a reflection of the self rather than a tedious pursuit of empty endeavor.