I got a bit of a reality check last week. My sister read the draft of my ebook that I thought was pretty close to a final draft. Turns out – not so much. She made a lot of really great points; because of my closeness to the subject matter, I made a few too many assumptions about what readers would understand – and how the information was organized. It got me thinking a lot about structure.
When I was teaching my social media course earlier this year, one of the things I struggled with was putting structure around such a massive, often shifting topic. Obviously, in teaching, structure is important. But I also think it’s something that we instinctively look for – and not just when learning a new idea.
Structure means affirmation.
Chris Brogan wrote a post last week about plans and permission. His premise is that when we’re looking online for ideas, what we’re really looking for is a plan for how to do something or permission to do something. In the sense that plan = structure, he’s right. We are looking for someone or something to tell us – yes, you’re doing this the “right” way. Now, I’m not sure there’s always a “right” way to do something. But I think it’s a part of our human nature to follow the pack; it gives us a sense of comfort.
Structure means it’s knowable.
Structure means that you can wrap your head around something – that it’s finite (or almost finite) and there’s a pattern or process that can be recognized. It’s a step toward saying, “Okay, I can get my head around this if I try.”
Structure means it’s understandable.
Which is different than knowable. If knowable means I can wrap my head around it, understandable means I can learn it, reproduce it, even modify it for my own needs. When I learned French in high school, it was a very traditional method: you learn the French equivalent of English words, you learn the French equivalent of verb tenses, etc. It’s based on something you know. Several years later, I took a college-level course in French, which was based on total immersion. All the lessons were in French – the theory was that you picked up what you needed based on context. Maybe it works (I’d already learned the traditional way so I can’t say for sure) but the total immersion method seems tougher because the structure is much more loose.
When structure is lacking or not clear, we get tense, confused, uninterested. The sense of overwhelm is huge. Although I find mind mapping still a bit too loose for me, I’m going to try using it to help me arrange my thoughts on the ebook a little more clearly.
What do you do to try to put structure around the unclear things?