If I have learned anything over the past eighteen months, it is the simple fact that life can change in unexpected ways in the space of a hiccup. Making plans to travel, sending deposits for tickets, and planning to attend conferences, may or may not work out. Yet I persist, penciling in dates and researching airplane flights, trusting in the belief that things will work out as they should. In other words, I’m an optimistic pantser! Is this any way to go through life?
Let’s take a look at the options…in life as well as in writing.
Working under the assumption (obviously a questionable word choice 🙂 ), that outlining, or planning ahead, will bring positive results, it is possible to craft a life or a plotline that leaves nothing to chance. Orchestrate, delegate, correlate, and give no quarter to the element of chance, and the world will remain orderly and under control. I admit to trying this plan. I scribble every appointment on the desk calendar, arrange meet-ups, and do my damnedest to make the parallel lines merge. And I know that this does work, often, in a draft of a story or novel. However, it fails to make the grade in my real life, which has never conformed to the blueprint I devised long ago. No need to list the expectations of a teenage romantic. Suffice it to say that they do not match the actualities of an older, wiser, but not yet jaded, lover of life. Hasn’t the pandemic taught us all this lesson?
The next option is that of the total pantser…make no plans, abandon oneself to the current, and ride the waves all the way to the sand. The trouble with this as an all-in method is it fails to ground one in the practical realities of being human. The basics of food, shelter, and comfort require a less free-wheeling approach. Some planning is necessary to meet elemental needs. Those who are incapable of doing that find themselves drifting like tumbleweed, more chaff than wheat.
Perhaps a third option is required, a way to combine the best of both approaches, merge the dual nature of my dueling personalities, to acknowledge that a modicum of control coupled with an understanding of the random acts of life means I plan and I wing it. I sort out the possibilities, set priorities, and prepare to be swept away by the vagaries of the world…be they tempests or teapots. That silly romantic longs to fly on the wings of chance, while the pragmatist reminds me to keep one foot grounded on the earth. So in life and in writing…I persist, persevere, and proceed with a bit of caution and a whole lot of faith!