My neighbor, friend and occasional traveling companion of many decades is Grammy nominated and Emmy award-winning composer, Christopher Hedge. Over the years we’ve had a number of conversations about the best way to nurture creativity. If he were a writer, he’d be a “pantser,” which is to say someone who flies by the seat of his pants, progressing intuitively forward from one idea to another, letting his subconscious come up with connections he never could have thought of consciously. I understand the mindset because my most joyful moments of writing have been just such unplanned for epiphanies. But in storytelling, as in music, one is working within an already prescribed form that the reader or listener is familiar with intuitively as a cultural meme (the forms in Western civilization may differ from Middle-Eastern or Eastern forms). The form is like a skeleton. One must first master the form, before hanging flesh on the bones. Some pantsers (Chris being one, Stephen King another) have already internalized the form. This is their craft. They can then just give their intuitive subconscious minds free reign to invent and fill in the blanks. I wish I were so blessed. Unfortunately, I have not internalized the structure of the story to the point that I can just start writing and expect a compelling story to emerge. I cannot innately tell a compelling story. I may be able to build details and atmosphere and character, but none of those individually or together can make a compelling story. There is an accepted structure and pace to storytelling. Those of us who haven’t internalized the form must resort to outlining to tell a compelling story. Outlining is like coming up with the individual notes of melody on a piano. A more detailed outline may be likened to adding chords or a bridge. The actual writing is more akin to orchestration. I’m adept at orchestration. My weakness is in finding the melody. I find it most useful to start with an outline, then allow my subconscious to embellish. Sometimes the best parts are unplanned and solve problems I didn’t even know I had.