My friend Pierre wrote on his blog about outlining. He so kindly mentioned me, because I don't outline often. If I have a story in my head, and I can't start it yet, then I write down all the thoughts I have about those characters, the plot, and anything of importance. Okay, many things that bear no resemblance of importance as well make it on the page. I keep a notebook with different thoughts, book ideas, changes for WIPs, and dreams. I actually dream often about characters. They talk the loudest sometimes while I sleep. So my notebook sits on my nightstand and I jot down the thoughts before they disappear.
For the most part, I am a free spirit in writing. I write what I feel. I often have three or four novels going at once, because characters speak to me at different times. When they talk, I write. Or at the very least, jot down what they tell me. And yes, for all the non-writers out there, this sounds crazy. But most writers will understand.
I think it's important to find what works for you and do it. Don't worry about what the next guy does. Different things work for different people. If you haven't found your niche yet, keep looking. You'll figure it out.
Good luck fellow writers!