Monday, November 1, 2010

Planner or Panster? Thinking Ahead

In the lead up to NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month--which starts today--Nov 1), I've been reading some tips on writing. One term that seems to be gaining popularity is to ask if you are a "planner" or a "panster." A planner is, obviously, one who plans her writing in advance. A panster is one who flies by the seat of her pants and does not plan ahead.

If you can't tell from reading my blog for all of these months, I'm a planner. In fact, I'm more of a planner than a doer, which is why I'm trying to change myself this year (thinking that this is the major thing holding me back from the life I want).

I've never been a "panster" or very spontaneous. I've envied people that ability to just go off and do things without planning. I have a friend who bought a house in early 2008, moving halfway across the country. 1.5 years later, he is selling that house to buy a different place 10 minutes from his first place. Why? Because he likes it better. I can't imagine just walking past a place for sale and deciding to chuck in all the plans for a place you just bought to buy a new home. It was so sudden and spontaneous. I've never been like that.

I have literally had to plan spontaneity into our lives. I'll be like, "next Saturday let's be spontaneous and go out to the park and see what we find." "Planned spontaneity" has become the phrase for let's go out and do something fun without too much prep or planning.

It's not like other people's spontaneity where they simply wake up one day and say "Let's go to the park now." In fact, when my husband has suddenly announced, "Let's go to the movies today" I've often resented it. I had plans for today. I had a list of things to do. Couldn't we plan to do the movie tomorrow so that I have time to adjust my thinking and figure out what I'll do before and after the movie? I know that I should be able to just roll with it and see these unplanned spontaneous moments as fun but I find them stressful instead.

In the same way, I plan my writing. In fact I have several stories in the planning stages. The problem is that, like my life, the stories continue to be in the future, not the present. I PLAN to write a novel, but am I ACTUALLY WRITING a novel? Not really.

That's why I decided to join in on NaNoWriMo. That's also why I decided to start this quest for my identity and life before my 42nd birthday. My planning hasn't gotten me to where I want to go. This either means that I don't really know where I want to go (a possibility) or that planning alone isn't enough. I need to figure out how to put the plans into action. Writing my novel is just one step to putting my plans into action.

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