A Wild Ride

IMG_0950I tried this whole planning thing. Honestly, I really did. I spent ages making little chart-y things and tables, planning my blog posts and work weeks and monthly goals. I tried writing out chapter lists and character arcs and tying them all together into some sort of marvellous grid that would become a whole big story.

But planning doesn’t work for me.

I’ve always been a kind of fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants girl. The kind of person who’d rather say ‘I tried’ than ‘I wish I’d tried’, then jumps in and gives it a go. Sometimes this ends in failure. Sometimes it ends in triumph. Sometimes it leads to somewhere quite unexpected.

When I worked for other people I was very organised. The fast pace of advertising meant I had to be, starting the day with a list of things which, despite the amount of time I spent crossing them off, seemed longer by the time I went home. I’ve always worked hard, trying to learn something and take away a positive, no matter how negative the work experience (and some have been quite negative). I don’t like being late for things, I run my household pretty tightly, and I’m quite good at prioritising.

But planning isn’t really my thing.

img_0384I think about the future, of course I do. I have a child and a mortgage and an idea of where I’d like to end up. But I’ve learned that life can pick you up and shake you around like dice in a jar, tipping you out to land as fortune takes you. And so, while I squirrel away my hopes like nuts in case of winter, I’m aware that winter might come in quite a different form than I imagined, and so the only thing I can really be prepared for is change.

See? I can’t even plan this post. I had meant to write about the festoons of post-it notes that have replaced my carefully typed lists, the piles of paperwork and scraps of scribbled notes, all of which have a twisted sort of order in my own mind but nowhere else, a system only my brain can understand. I wanted to write about the fact that, when I tell a story, I can forget about planning any part of it other than the main events, as the characters will pull me along in their wake, typing as fast as I can to keep up with their actions. And that I love, absolutely love, the wild ride of it, the feeling of discovery as the story unfolds around me like the petals of a flower.

IMG_0806But instead my mind and tapping fingers have taken me outside the cluttered confines of my desk, pointing out that planning really isn’t something that’s worked out for me, in many aspects of my life. And that I can waste time formatting documents and printing up checklists all I want, but when the jar begins to shake again I’d better be ready for where I’m going to land. That life itself is wild and organic and that I am a dancing leaf on the wind – I can fight it, try and organise it into charts and boxes, or I can simply go along with it to wherever it takes me, bringing all that I have, all that I am, along for the ride.


Note: I wrote this post yesterday when I was still feeling a little shaken for several reasons. I’m not quite so fey as it sounds – I do work hard and focus on what I want to achieve. But setting concrete plans, beyond a couple of big things, is something that has never really worked for me – as soon as I do so the universe has a way of demonstrating that it has other plans for me…

33 thoughts on “A Wild Ride

  1. “…while I squirrel away my hopes like nuts in case of winter, I’m aware that winter might come in quite a different form than I imagined, and so the only thing I can really be prepared for is change.” That’s an incredibly lyrical and profound line. Have you ever considered being a writer? πŸ˜€

  2. You’ve just described how I write and how I live! I’ve tried to plan and be organised, but it always goes to pot and I usually give up. Luckily for me, I’m married to someone who is the oppositeβ€”who’s organised and keeps me on track. I admire people like him, and I used to wish I was different, but I accept how I am now. There’s enough structure already in our lives, with deadlines and school hours, etc., we need some freedom and space.

    1. Sorry for the delayed reply, Louise – I’ve been out and about these last two days and my phone is not very co-operative when it comes to writing comments.
      I love that this post spoke to you – I knew we were kindred spirits ;-D My other half keeps me from going off the rails too, whereas I bring him out of his shell a little more – perhaps why we’re still quite well-suited after all these years πŸ™‚

  3. I’m not a planner…usually I’m not in the mood for things the day I have them planned, unlike the day I actually planned them. But I have impeccable time management skills and I shun procrastination because that would only add to my anxiety. So there’s still hope…hahahaha!

    1. Yes, I’ve had to learn to prioritise and not procrastinate, otherwise I’d get absolutely nothing done haha! But otherwise I’m happy to go with the flow and see what comes along…

  4. So glad you wrote this and I read it… after spending so much time in the company of Miss Sacha Black, who plans the Bejaysus out of everything to the minutest detail, and in the most complex ways possible that I can never even get my head around, you and your commenters have made me feel normal again!!! πŸ˜‚ I too had my daily checklist at work, and planned and measured the implementation of projects etc. But when it comes to books and life, I am led by my characters, by fate, by chance, whatever you want to call it, and I may have gone against the grain and done everything back to front, but I believe it was the right way for me. I also have no regrets… NOT ONE! So it must have all gone the way it was supposed to. And still I achieved a thing or two. So in my opinion, being a pantser and not a planner can work… its whatever rocks your boat. 😁 Sometimes I wonder if a planned book is better than a pantsed one, but I’ve never yet been able to tell the difference, have you?

    1. Thanks, Ali – glad it resonated with you πŸ™‚ I spent some time with Miss Sacha this weekend and she put us all to shame with her notebooks and sticky notes. I felt quite at a loss haha! My contribution? ‘Well, I tried to draw a map of Ambeth once’ vs her many many notebooks and moodboards of inspiration haha!
      And I agree, it’s whatever works for you – some people do much better with planning, I’m just not one of them! No regrets here, either ;-D

    1. Absolutely! Just because I fly by the seat of my pants most of the time, doesn’t mean it will suit everyone. As I said to Steve, we all have our own way of getting where we need to go πŸ™‚

  5. I like to plan but not so much write plans, more in my head. I tend to plan in the shower (I’m hoping Santa buys me shower crayons and also allows me to use them) or when I’m ironing shirts in the morning. Weird, right?

  6. I tried planning. Doesn’t work for me either.
    I have to work my day job to a tight plan, but be flexible enough to make instant rearrangements when something changes.
    When I tried writing to a plan, it killed my enjoyment in the process, and that stopped me dead. My characters need to have their freedom! I have a good idea of where they need to get to, but little idea of how they will accomplish it.
    I’ve ceased pressuring myself to try plotting/planning my creative endeavours – isn’t freedom what creativity is all about???

  7. I love planning! When I am about to visit a new country all I do is plan plan plan: places to see, free city tours bla bla…but when an opportunity for something else than what I’ve planned shows up, I never miss it!

  8. They say life happens while you’re making plans. Sometimes I plan and then get overwhelmed by it. Then when I don’t plan, I’m overwhelmed by it πŸ˜‚ In other words I haven’t got a clue what I’m doing!

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