Feedback loops: Showing up as a writer informs your writing

Your writing informs your outline and vice versa.

You can have a perfect plan for your writing, which makes sense on paper. This chapter follows that one, and this example will land perfectly here. You have a logical flow and, you hope, an emotional one too.

But, as happens on the best road trip, the act of writing can give you more information about next steps. The writing feeds the plan and suddenly you’re writing in exactly the right direction.

That’s why, in This Is a Book! the co-creation nonfiction writing program I teach, we open each session with a short writing exercise. The students write stories that might appear in the book. We see what themes and ideas result from the writing. Then we create the outline. They write the sample chapter, I edit it, and they have new ideas to inform the outline and their next chapters.

The students in the program want to achieve their outline and sample chapter, and that’s a core takeaway of the program. But their bigger goal is to build a writing practice and cultivate accountability in their writing life. They’re learning how to be writers who show up first for themselves, then their reader, and later their publishing partner. Showing up and doing the work creates a positive feedback loop.

Photo by Stephanie Artuso.

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