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I’m not a moderate person. I either obsess over something or forget about it completely. It’s 100% health food and cross country running or donuts and chocolate milk for a week straight. I clean the entire house, scrub the floor and mow the lawn, or I sit on the couch watching Netflix and get up only to shower. It’s 100% motivation or nothing. Balance is not my thing.

If the thought occurs to me that I want to buy a house someday, I’ll download an app, look at every house in my chosen area and dream of the ways I would make them all my own. For two weeks, home decor is the only topic I know of. I’m almost drunk off all of the possibility that each house brings.

But lo and behold, soon realization hits that I can’t afford a house. I should concentrate on something more attainable.

Hair dye is attainable, right?

And for two weeks I will think of nothing but my overpowering need for red hair. I’ll pore over every single website I can find, searching for the right shade. Then, two weeks later, I realize I don’t really love red all that much. On the the next obsession.

So you see why I have such trouble keeping up with a blog.

Luckily, my attention span lasts a bit longer with my stories –just not quite long enough. When I start writing a book, I feel overpowered with motivation. It’s a feeling that’s something akin to falling in love. Spring has sprung, I can almost hear birds singing in my head, and I walk around with a perpetual smile on my face. The beginning of a book is always my favorite part because I can see all of the possibilities so clearly, the characters are right in front of me, begging for their stories to be told.

Then as the weeks and months go by, and life gets in between the characters and my brain, I lose steam. I ‘fall out of love’ with my story.

I’ve told my family hundreds of times that if I could just lock myself in a cabin in the woods for a month, I could crank out an entire book, no problem. My brain would be so into the story, and without having to rip myself out of that other world every time someone talked to me, I would just be on one continuous train of thought until the story had reached its conclusion. Ah, how wonderful that would be.

Alas, that isn’t an option. I can’t stay up all night or work on my story for seven days straight because, well, I have a job. The excuses set in, ‘I don’t have time to get my mind into it, it’s not worth it right now. I’ll write some other time’.

And so the vicious cycle goes on and on. I start a book, get frustratingly close to the end, and then I lose interest.

But no more. I will fight my nature and I will finish my book this year if it’s the death of me. May a swarm of wild locusts descend upon my house if I fail. (Seriously, though… If that’s not motivation, I don’t know what is…)

My first step –though I never imagined I would speak these words –is to outline.

I still remember my ninth grade English teacher’s advice that any good writer must work off an outline.

The reason I remember it so clearly is because, at the time, I thought it was complete rubbish. I wasn’t in third grade, why would I use something so juvenile as an outline?

And yet for years, I couldn’t figure out why my stories just didn’t have much plot or structure to them. I knew that I loved to write, so why were my stories such slop?

More years passed, more stories went into the trash heap, and still, thanks to my stubborn nature, I couldn’t see the error of my ways. Surely it couldn’t be something I was doing wrong, right?

Then one day, a day I like to call ‘rock bottom’, I was 40,000 words into a book that had as much backbone as a jellyfish, and as I sat staring at the meaningless words on my computer screen, it was as if the clouds opened up and I saw it written in the sky in red letters, ‘Margaret, you are an idiot’. And it was right then that I realized that I am not nearly as smart as I tell myself I am, and I realized that maybe, just maybe, the teacher who had gotten a degree in English knew a tiny bit more than I gave him credit for.

So for the foreseeable future, I am doing the most unnatural thing possible. I’m fighting my nature, I’m writing an outline.

Writing off an outline is divine. Writing an outline, not so much.

Wish me luck, and if anyone hears a loud pounding noise, it might just be me banging my head on my clipboard.

In other news, this post was made possible by a nonstop stream of lovely music from the Nick Cave and Warren Ellis Pandora channel. If you enjoy the sound of what I imagine angels playing violins would resemble, listen to it right away.

How about you? Do you have trouble outlining?

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