It seems like a lot of musicians out there, I've gotten into the habit of doing a lot of writing. These days it seems writing is becoming more and more useful and used in everyday living and especially online. This includes not only of the emails and correspondence that I have on a daily basis but also all of my online activities that includes blogs, commenting on other sites and reviews. Whenever I had something to write I would generally just start and see where it would lead. This would be fine for most activities but whenever I had to write something that was more than a couple of lines long, or had a specific point to make, I found I would spend a lot of time rewriting and trying to get the article to have some sort of consistency and cohesion. After struggling with this for a while I learned about the value of starting with an outline.
The Outline in Writing
An outline can do a couple of things that can help your writing immensely. First of all, it's a great way to get all of your ideas down in a hurry, just making points on all of the different things that you want to cover. It's basically brainstorming. You think of all of the topics that you want to cover in your article and make some points on each of the ideas. It also helps you to organize those ideas. You start just writing out ideas and soon enough you start to see some connections between some of your ideas. You may also come up with new ideas based on the ones you've already put down. It helps in organizing your thoughts. It may help streamline the article too by seeing which ideas don't fit the topic and may be useful in another article. You may find that after brainstorming, you have enough for a couple of articles. Lastly, it helps you keep your focus by looking at all of the points available and making sure that you stick to the topic and don't veer off course half way through the article.
Writing out an outline really helps your writing. It helps you effectively communicate with your fans and create interesting content for your sites. Second, it helps with your correspondence with others. Email is still the reigning king of communication and being able to articulate your ideas and thoughts well is a great skill to have. Lastly, and this is the point of this article, it can help in deciding what you're going to do with your music career and can help in making decisions and sticking with a desired plan.
We're going to use the same process to outline how you want your music career to go as the process in creating a great piece of writing. It involves 3 basic steps: brainstorming, planning and action. The first two steps are the same processes that I talked about earlier in preparing to write. Basically it's just sitting down and writing down all of the ideas that come to you on a particular subject. I've mentioned it as part of the outline process because I generally will do both in one sitting: brainstorm and then create my outline on the same piece of paper. You may want to do this in a couple of steps but I find that it's better to complete as much as you can in one sitting. The reason for this is that sometimes when you sit and think about something for a period of time you may have a hard time starting but once you're in the middle of it, the ideas may start flying and it's usually a good idea to just let them fly and worry about limits or problems at a later date. We're not concerned with details yet, we're just focusing on ideas and at this point; none are bad.
Once you've got all of your ideas written down. It's time to set about figuring out which ones you are going to pursue and make a reality, which ones you'll be tackling at a later date, and ones which will be have to be put on the back burner or completely eliminate. If you're worried about missing something, don't: all of your ideas are written down and if you come up with something at a later date, you can simply add it in.
For this reason I always carry a notepad with me and jot down any ideas that come to me. You never know when you're going get inspiration and come up with a great idea. If you think that you'll remember it later, think again. It's always better to write it down when you think of it, that way you know that it'll be there and you can free your mind to come up with more ideas!
Once you've written down a bunch of ideas, it's exciting to see all of your ideas and dreams. It usually becomes a little easier to decide what you're going to do once you can see all of your options right there. Sometimes though, when you see all of the things that you want to do, it could become overwhelming trying to decide on what to do first/next. This happens sometimes when bands see all of things that must be taken care of when releasing a CD. Here again, our outline comes to the rescue. If you have all of the things outlined in front of you and you're a bit overwhelmed, the best thing to do is to just pick something on the list and get started. If it's the wrong thing to do, it'll become apparent pretty soon. Either way you've started and you have some momentum going. Once you've started on something, you can sit back and see if it brings any results. If it does then you know you're heading in the right direction. You'll still have to make some adjustments to your plan but you're moving ahead and things are getting done. Having the outline in front of you can help you decipher if what you are doing is bringing you closer to your goal or if you're heading in the wrong direction. It's having that outline there that allows you to stay on track. It's like having a roadmap and it case there's any trouble or questions, you just have to refer back to the roadmap.
Work in Progress
The difference between this and a real roadmap is this outline is a work in progress. It's going to have to be continually adjusted and updated. Once you've set out and done a couple of items on the list, you'll have to take time out and see if your actions brought any results and check if you're heading in the right direction. We'll talk in a future post about some of the decisions and questions you may want to ask yourself when going through your brainstorming sessions. This outline will have to be updated and new ones will have to be created on a regular basis. Once you get into the habit, it becomes easier to do and you'll be more effective in planning your future and seeing those plans to fruition. Writing out an outline is an effective way to organize thoughts and streamline the creative process. It helps in brainstorming, writing, organizing, and in this case, is very effective in planning your music career. Take time at least once a month to outline what you have achieved and what you plan on doing next and you may find yourself getting more done and getting further than you ever imagined.