The index-card approach to writing had me sprawled out on the floor while writing my Ph.D. thesis. I was arranging the index cards with my notes so I could turn them into sentences, paragraphs, and chapters that made sense.
You’re probably not writing a dissertation. You’re probably not even taking notes on index cards. But the index-card approach to writing can help you organize your thoughts.
If you’re organizing your thoughts before you write
To help you write your first draft, jot your main ideas down on index cards. Then rearrange the cards until you hit an order that makes sense. This is essentially what I did with my Ph.D. dissertation, although I already had all of my notes scribbled onto cards.
Prefer an electronic approach to organizing your thoughts? Record your thoughts using mind mapping software. Then you can rearrange by clicking and dragging.
If you’re rewriting a draft
If you’re rewriting a draft, you can print it and then cut it into strips of paper. You can shuffle the paper strips until you find the right order.
Sure, you could cut and paste within a word-processing document. However, as soon as you open that software, you’ll be tempted to tinker with your wording. That’s less of a problem when you’re moving around pieces of paper. It’s best to solve your organizational problem first, as I’ve said in “5 steps for rewriting your investment commentary.” Otherwise, you could spend a lot of time wordsmithing a section that gets thrown out because it doesn’t fit your article’s ultimate structure.
The bottom line of the index-card approach to writing
There’s something about a visual approach to writing that helps many of us conquer organizational challenges. If you’ve read my book or taken any of my classes, you know I’m a big fan of mind mapping, another visual technique.
Try the index-card approach to writing, and let me know what you think!