There is beauty in structure
and there is structure in beauty.
When teaching students, the most difficult aspect of writing to convey is that of structure, especially with essay writing. If you have a structure, you can have a strong piece of writing; if your structure is weak or problematic, you will have difficulty in convincing your reader.
With essays, you work most efficiently if you figure out the structure - then start writing. It gives you a clear path to follow, and minimizes problems to do with your argument. Rewriting is minimized.
With creative work, the same holds true in that ultimately you need structure that works to tell your story in a cogent manner. If the venture is a creative one, we don’t necessarily think about structure at the beginning. We might pour out a pile on the paper and then see what has emerged.
What I do
I will often write the first half a play (which might be neatly structured because I have been mulling it over), and then have to stop and figure out how the second half needs to unfold. Sometimes I know the ending, sometimes it reveals itself, sometimes I try a number of different structures before I find the right fit.
You might say: Structure limits me. If I have to think about structure then I won’t be able to get my thoughts out.
I would in turn suggest that all writing will reveal structure; it might be effective or it could be confusing, but it will be there. You have to deal with it at some point so that it works for the piece and not against it. Structure is about creating a foundation, so why not start with it at the beginning?
Here's the thing
Sometimes a structure will be the tantalizing aspect that gets you going on a particular story. For instance, in a number of my plays I have chosen to work with a protagonist who has a number of selves, so all performers play the same character, but focus on different psychological aspects. This is a structure I embrace because it makes both dramatic and psychological sense. Structure can be viewed as the unfolding of events in a particular order for a particular reason (chronological, flashbacks, start at the end and then tell how to get there); or it may be more involved with an approach that will require a specific structure.
Structure is beauty: when you have the right one it makes the most of your work.
And beauty is structure: when you preen in front of the mirror you want to be able to say, “Gawd, I am the Brad Pitt of plays”, or “La la la, I am the Madonna of poems” or …”Mirror, mirror on the wall, whose got the fairest structure of them all?”