Are you a sequential thinker? Many of us think we are, but when we take a closer look, it becomes apparent that we’re a bit more spatial than we’ve given ourselves credit for. While this may not seem like a very important bit of information to know about ourselves, it can actually come in quite handy when we’re writing.
Linear or Nonlinear
The way to check is to simply get out a pen or pencil and a copy of something you’ve written recently (pre-editing phase). Then, take a few minutes to read each paragraph and jot down a word or two in the margin to note the subject or point of the paragraph.
Do your notations read as an outline or do the notes seem to be random?
If you’re left with an outline, you’re a sequential, or linear, thinker. If your notations had a few outliers, but for the most part followed a course from point A to point B, you’re just a sequential thinker that needs to remember to edit out your tangents.
On the other hand, if your notations couldn’t be made into an outline without some rearranging, you’re most likely a spatial, or nonlinear, thinker.
Achieve Better Coherence
If it turns out that free-writing wouldn’t result in the perfect five paragraph essay for you (intro, body para 1, body para 2, body para 3, conclusion), then you may need to work a bit at achieving coherence.
The reason you want to make sure that your writing is coherent is because that’s how you achieve flow and logistical reliance. Whether you’re writing fiction or a legal argument, you want to take your reader down the path that offers the least amount of resistance to your ultimate conclusion. That’s believability.
The top three elements I look for when checking for coherence are (in this order):
- Clearly defined thesis
- Proper transitions
When things start leaping from thought to thought, usually that’s an indication that you over generalized somewhere. Sometimes it’s hard to remember that the assumptions we have in our head may not be in our reader’s head unless we put them there.
I’ll be the first to jump in and say that an outline and a lot of prep work are not always necessary for good writing. Every single one of my university papers was given an A without any extra hubbub. The only times I was ever required to turn in an outline first, I “cheated” and wrote the essay before I created an outline for it. That’s what worked for me then. Now that I write an edit for a living, I can see how outlining is a for sure where free writing is a maybe. (This is an example of an unnecessary paragraph that would most likely not have been included had I used an outline to write this post from.)
Whether you are a sequential or spatial thinker doesn’t generally influence your ability to write. What it does do is help you determine whether you would be best served to just sit and write or whether you should take the time to create an outline. To achieve coherence, plan, plot, develop, and connect. Don’t leave anything to chance, or you risk losing your reader along the way.
So, are you a sequential thinker or a spatial one?