Experiences with The Spiral Method

I’ve written four articles using The Spiral Method, and I’ve been delightfully surprised every time.

I first used The Spiral Method in January, to write the zeroth draft that would become “Strategies for Stability.” I spiraled for a few minutes, and was amazed at quickly The Spiral Method helps me to move my ideas out of my head and onto paper. (Yes, I write my zeroth drafts on paper.) I was also surprised to learn how much material I have floating around in my head behind each of the nuggets I want to write about.

I spent several hours revising. When I was done, I got my next surprise: The nugget that I originally wanted to write about — “People change in order to remain the same.” — was nowhere to be found in the finished article. I’d had that thought in my nugget file for years. Yet while I was spiraling I stumbled onto a question that I wasn’t able to answer, and now I’m no longer sure I believe that initial claim. Somehow, in spiraling and revising, I took the article somewhere I hadn’t foreseen when I started. I was tickled by that.

I next used The Spiral Method for “Tests for Listening.” Before I sat down to write I knew the four “listening tests” that I wanted to write about. I guessed that I’d write about a hundred words about each, plus an introduction and conclusion — maybe 500 words for the whole article. I spiraled on each listening test, revised the zeroth draft into a publishable article, and — surprise! — 1000 words! Who knew I had that much to say? I checked it twice to make sure I hadn’t inserted lots of fluff. Nope.

I worried that 1000 words is a little long for a blog entry. But that’s what it came to, so that’s what I published. It wasn’t so long ago that I couldn’t imagine how to write a 1000 word article. Now I may have a hard time keeping my articles short! I guess that’s progress.

When I sat down last week for my third Spiral Writing session, I thought I knew what I wanted to write about: Needs are more important than wants. I’ve had that idea in my nugget file for years, and finally wanted to write about it. But what I wrote at the top of the page was, “Needs come from wants.” Similar, but not the same. This zeroth draft eventually led to “Testing Needs and Wants.” When the article was done, I noticed once again that not only was the original nugget missing, I was no longer sure I believed it. The Spiral Method, it seems, is a great way to destroy the ideas I’ve loved for years!

As I was revising “Testing Needs and Wants,” I noticed that the article included lots of background material about the structure of values. Too much. It distracted from the distinctions I really wanted to highlight between needs and wants. So I sliced the background stuff into an article on its own, “The Structure of Values.” What a lovely side-effect of writing the needs and wants article! I’d known for months that I would eventually write an article about the structure of values, and here it was.

So this one Spiral Method writing session led to two full articles, each bordering on “too long for blogland” — 2000 words in total. I’m a little nervous about spiraling again. I’m having visions of accidentally unleashing The Blog that Ate Manhattan. (But I’m safe here in Sacramento. I think.)

That’s what I’ve learned so far. The Spiral Method helps me to put my ideas onto paper more quickly and with greater ease than I thought possible. It encourages me to question my ideas and create new ones that I like even better. And it gives me confidence that I have plenty to say.

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