Help For Writing (or How I Came to Love Outlining)

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                   My Outline
Theme Sentence:
My life is a blessing
Point One:
These are the blessings of my life
Point Two:
These are the problems of my life
Point Three:
The blessings are more numerous and of greater value

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Lessons from Life:  From my earliest experience with writing a theme paper in High School to writing a new sermon every week I have found it difficult to put my thoughts down in a coherent fashion.  Thoughts flit into my head and out at a pace faster than I can keep up with them.  And most of them are just passionate feelings pouring out from within.

For example, I can start writing on a subject of importance like the need for people to get along with each other.  This could remind me of people who are needy in the world and how we all must do something to help them.  The subject of the world might remind me of the need for all of us to take better care of our planet.  If I just meander through those different topics, as important as they are, my theme paper or sermon will be just a jungle of thoughts.  Listeners will scratch their head and wonder “what’s the point?”

I can still feel the frustration and anxiety I felt as I struggled to put together all my thoughts and exhortations into an organized whole.  I would start writing and let the thoughts lead my writing.  Pretty soon I would stop and say to myself:  “where is this all leading?  What am I trying to say?”  Then I would have to look back at what I had written and try to get the big picture.  Usually it was impossible.

There was a professor in seminary who happened to critique a sermon which was probably the worst I (or anyone else) ever preached.  As we watched the video, he gently pointed out that a sermon is like a sculpture.  If any part of it doesn’t relate to the image I have in mind, then I need to get rid of it even if it is the greatest idea I’ve ever had.  If it doesn’t fit, I need to let it go.

Later, I heard that any sermon’s message should be first summarized into a single theme sentence.  This was helpful, but not as helpful as what I eventually discovered.

Finally, I laid out my sermons in outline form.  I began with a theme sentence which briefly summarized what the entire sermon was saying.  Then I expanded that key idea into a detailed outline which helped establish a logical movement through all the related sub-points I believed I needed to make.

The outline eventually became my friend in laying out whatever presentation I wanted to make in any media whether it was a sermon, an essay, or even a video presentation.   I learned in this way that how I said something was as important as what I had to say.  If I just wrote down a bunch of disconnected ideas, no matter how brilliant, all listeners would eventually tune me out.  If however, my ideas were connected logically, I knew when I began where I was going, what I was going to say, and where I was to end up.    The finished product stood a good chance of being heard (if the content made sense).  What seemed like discipline or boring school stuff actually released the inner muse and made writing enjoyable.  Nowadays outlines are my friend.

About richrockwood

Writer of Christian fiction whose first book "Memory Theft" delves into the impact an extortion scam has on a retired widower. For more information please check out www.richrockwood.com
This entry was posted in Accomplishment, Aging, Communication, Creativity, Focus, Guidance, Orderliness, Perspective, Writing and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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