Outlining Your Outline as a Way to Help You Write Every Day -->

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Outlining Your Outline as a Way to Help You Write Every Day

Writing and Time Series | Walden Writing Center Blog

Have you ever made or eaten potica (pronounced paw-tee-tsza)? It’s a flaky, buttery, Slovenian sweetbread (a favorite in my family) that requires a lot of attention and preparation to make from scratch. The process involves allowing the yeast mixture to dissolve in milk (8 minutes), kneading the dough once you mix the wet and dry ingredients together (4 minutes), allowing the dough to rise two separate times (1 hour and 30 minutes), and then finally baking the bread (1 hour). But I’ll tell you what, all that hard work plus waiting time is worth it once you bite into that first slice of homemade goodness!

The point of making your mouth water with thoughts of delicious sweetbread is to draw a couple of connections to this idea of work plus downtime and the writing process. While the concept of writing as a process might be familiar, the realities of life can often interrupt this process. However, with a concrete plan and the notion that downtime is a productive part of the writing process, you might consider outlining your outline as a way to write every day.

Outlining Your Outline | Walden Writing Center Blog
Potica (modified) by Michael R. Perry (CC BY 2.0)
Outlining your outline

Outlining an outline is a time management strategy I developed in college and have used for every academic paper I have written since. (It's also a tip Sarah mentioned in her post last week.) The concept is relatively simple: Once you have reached the point in the writing process where you must create an outline for your paper, use due dates and time limits within the outline to specify how long each section will (or should) take you to complete. For example, in the introduction of this blog post, I outlined how long it would take to complete each major stage of the potica-making process. Applying the same concept to the writing process will make you accountable for setting aside a specific amount of time to work on each section of your paper.

Clearly, you cannot always expect that you will complete every section in the amount of time you allot yourself, which is why you should also add due dates to your outline of an outline. Due dates are another way to hold yourself accountable for completing each section of your paper, but remember that the point of outlining an outline is to write a little bit every day. Thus, the goal is to complete the various parts of your paper within specified time frames during each day, as opposed to waiting until your given due date and writing large, unmanageable sections in one sitting.

The importance of downtime

But don’t forget your downtime! This part is equally as important as the act of writing itself. If you were to omit the waiting time when making potica, your sweetbread would likely turn to mush. The same is likely to happen on some level if you do not include downtime in your outline of your outline. Writing a little bit of a big project every day allows you time to think and reflect on the direction of your work. Think about each section of your paper after you write it. Think about the content you focused on. Think about the accuracy of your argument. Think about how each of your paragraphs leads back to your central argument. Allowing yourself some downtime to think and reflect will help you better visualize where you are in the writing process and where you want to go with your ideas.

Just as waiting for the dough to rise is necessary for baking potica, downtime is an important part of the writing process. | Walden University Writing Center Blog
Just as waiting for the dough to rise is necessary for baking potica, downtime is an important part of the writing process.
Potica by Jenny Cestnik (CC BY-ND 2.0 

Outlining your paper outline can help you practice writing every day as a way to manage your time and develop as a writer. Outlining your outline can also help you better understand your writing process, how long it takes you to complete different stages, and how you visualize your own work. Finding the time to write will forever be a challenge, but holding yourself accountable and engaging in reflection can help you manage your time effectively. And, you can always reward yourself for all of your hard work with some potica!

Thinking about the process of baking potica can help you think about the writing strategy of outlining your outline | Walden University Writing Center Blog
Potica by emma.kate (CC BY-ND 2.0)
This month, we're talking about topics related to writing and time. Need to catch up on what you missed? Check out our latest WriteCast episode for Beth and Brian's discussion of favorite (and free!) apps you can use to save you time when you write, Beth's reflection on what she learned from writing her master's thesis, and Sarah's 5 tips for writing when you have no time.  

To see an example of outlining your outline, see Outlining your Outline, Part II: Example Paper Assignment.

As always, we welcome you to share your experiences, questions, suggestions, and thoughts below in the comments!  


Ellen Zamarripa
 is a writing instructor at the Walden Writing Center. She enjoys helping students from around the world develop their writing skills and reach their educational goals. 

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  1. thank you kindly!

  2. You're welcome! Thanks for reading and good luck writing.

  3. Thank you for posting this article. I have been struggling with writing and I am going to try this strategy!

    1. Great to hear! Hopefully outlining will help minimize your struggle.