I’m a planner. A plotter. A list-maker. A left-brain engineer. I like to make reservations, sign contracts, and keep my word. To me, looking ahead and being organized helps to make sense of a chaotic world. And as long as things are bumping along per my expectations, things are grand.
But therein lies a problem…because as soon as expectations are thrown in the mix, disappointment is bound to follow. And admittedly, my expectations are high. I think people should do what they say, work hard, be loyal, follow the rules, and be nice. And if you haven’t noticed lately, some people lie, are slackers, cheat, make their own rules, and aren’t very nice at all. Ditto for companies (more specifically in my case—publishers). Sometimes it’s worse when dealing with companies because individual employees can pass the buck to some unknown collective of “theys” or “policies” and no one is ever really held responsible…or accountable.
The point is, people like me can plan all day long, but there are exponentially more people out there on a collision path with my plan because 1) they don’t have their own plan or 2) their plan runs counter to mine or 3) at one time their plan was the same as mine, but they up and changed their mind. (I hate it when that happens.)
At different times, my best-laid plans have been waylaid by a person, a group, a publisher, the weather, and the economy. My career has hit a speed bump because my agent left the business, my editor took extended maternity leave, the line I was writing for was terminated, or the publisher I was writing for merged with another. In my personal life, I’ve been blindsided by divorce, cancer, the real estate crisis, and the loss of someone close to me. And I know I’ve been more fortunate than most when it comes to upheaval.
The inevitable interruption of plans plays right into the hands of people who tend to fly by the seat of their pants (in the writing world, we call these unpredictable creatures “pantsters”). They reason if no plan is iron-clad, then why make one in the first place?
Why get married? Save money?
Obey the law? (Sorry, pantsters, this was an extreme example….I didn’t mean to imply anyone/everyone is unlawful! It read differently at 2AM this morning.)
Make a to-do list? Write a synopsis?
I argue that a plan at least gives me a general direction and forces me to focus. And because the plans I’ve made for myself have generally worked out (I’m making a living doing something I love, even though it’s not what I went to school for…and I’m in a loving relationship, but with a different man than the one I thought would be by my side), experience has allowed me to build enough confidence to know that when my original plan gets derailed, I can recover…and regroup. In short, what I expect when I’m expecting things to go as planned, is for things to eventually get jerked in another direction, and for a new plan to emerge.
And that’s the kind of unpredictability I can live with.
Okay, plotters and pantsters out there—let me know which career- and life-style has best served YOU.