September 15, 2014

the joy of leaving room for spontaneity

We've covered this before, but in the world of writing I'm a plotter. Every time I try my hand at pantsing, I end up stopping a few thousand words into the project and either quitting for good or outlining the rest of the story.

I don't necessarily follow the same approach each time. And I'm not super detailed about it either. I write one or two sentences for a scene or chapter (i.e. Lexi watches a movie at Jason's and... chicka chicka bow wow.)

This isn't the right approach for everyone, but it's what works for me. My mind has to have an idea of where we're going with this story, because I have to make everything build toward that ending.

I'm a planner in life, too. Or I can be. Most Fridays, I create a list titled "Goals for the Weekend." (I try calling them goals rather than things to do, because it's a mental game of sorts. If I don't do everything, I didn't fail to accomplish a list of tasks, but fell short of my goal. Does that sound crazy? It probably is nuts, but look who's talking.)

This weekend, my list looked something like this:

  • donate clothes
  • get grocieries
  • clean out car
  • do freelance writing?
  • write
  • do laundry 
  • watch football game

  • set Fantasy line-up
  • dust
  • vacuum
  • freelance?
  • prep lunches for week
  • make and portion dinners for week
  • write

I'm pleased to report that I accomplished everything in my list, though not necessarily in the order specified or even as I'd planned it in my head.

I got a jump start on the weekend Friday night by working on my current project. (I'm practicing a "don't kiss a tell" strategy at the moment with this book, so no hints on the story or how much writing I did. I hope you'll forgive me, but the mystery seems to work for me.) I took a dinner break and decided to tackle the freelance pieces I was commissioned to do. The force was apparently strong with me on Friday, because I wrapped those up by nine. I tinkered with my story a while longer and reached a point when I needed a break.

Okay. What next? It was too late to clean (I live in an apartment) and too early to work on my meals. So I strayed from the schedule. I went to visit my sister at work at the bar and had a couple of drinks. During the first drink, I updated my WIP's outline. For the second drink, I talked Fantasy Football and NFL drama with one of the regulars.

When my sister finished work around one, instead of driving home we decided to try our luck out seeing the aurora borealis that was supposed to be visible over Nebraska that night. It took longer to get away from the city lights than we spent out in the country. We didn't say much, and we didn't see the light spectacle (neither did anyone according to my Facebook News Feed), but it was still a lot more fun than I'd anticipated having.

Maybe it was the memory of so many nights in our childhood when our parents would wake us up in the middle of the night to go see a lunar eclipse or meteor shower. Maybe it was the sense of adventure and not knowing exactly how we were going to get where we were going or what we'd find. I'm guessing it was a combination of both.

I won't bore you with the play by play of the rest of the weekend, but while I accomplished everything I wanted to do, I still veered off the path a few more times. I went to breakfast and did some light shopping with one of my good friends. I went over to my brother's house to watch the late night Nebraska at Fresno State game and my other brother's house on Sunday to watch some NFL football. I took a nap. On impulse I picked up a six-pack of Oktoberfest beer (which wasn't on my list) at the grocery store. I had fun.

I arrived at my planned destination at the end of the weekend. I basically stuck to my plan. But I still left room for surprises. I had expected and unexpected moments, and both were great. Sure I had to tweak my plan a little, but the outcome was even better than how I'd started.

I do the same thing with my stories. While I basically stick to my outline, I leave room for surprises. I give myself permission to change the plan. I allow for spontaneity, because it always makes my story better while taking me where I wanted to go.

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1 comment:

  1. Planned spontaneity: it's a thing. I think we were quite successful at that during our writers' retreat. I'd love to plan to be spontaneous with you again soon. ;) (Thanks for the shout-out.)