Tuesday, April 30, 2013

If Only I Could Outline My Life As Easily As I Can A Book...

May 1 is quickly approaching. Is anyone else sorta like, "Where did April go?" Because I am.

It's mostly because May has been the month of insanity (read: INSANITY) for me that I've known was coming since last year. And now it's here. I'm not sure if I'm ready, but the world does not wait for readiness. And I like to be ready.

I'm a plotter.

I started out as a pantser, but over the years that I've been writing, I've learned that I write better and quicker with outlines. They started out basic, and now they've developed into pages and pages of story before I write an actual word. Well, for some of the books. Each book is different, but I always now know what I'm going to write before I start working on it. The more I know, the better because otherwise I flounder and second-guess and get really frustrated when I don't know what's happening. I hate not knowing what's going to happen.

I hate that so much that when I was a kid (or from the time I was a kid until college *hides*) I used to read the end of a book first. The last paragraph. If I didn't like that then I wouldn't buy it. I wouldn't even finish it if I'd already started. Then, one day in college, my fiction writing class learned of my secret sin and very vocally judged me for that. They all asked why I did that and I used to say it was because I wanted the end to be worth it, and because I really liked to write endings first. (I knew all the endings before the beginnings!) But my professor said I did it because I "hated not being in control and by reading the end, it gave me back some of that control. But you can't be in control and be a reader." I stopped reading endings after that -- and I've never forgotten it because it's so true.

I'm a plotter in writing, but not in life.

Life has too many factors, too many variables, too many other people who impact where I end up.  In life, I don't know the ending. No one does. I don't know what will happen next or where each decision will lead me, and most days I feel like I'm floundering. Like things are moving and sometimes I'm standing there in traffic with my thumb out and no one stops. Other times I'm jumping on to whatever car is zooming by and hanging on for dear life and praying I don't fall off. Even more times, I'm too afraid to cross the street because I don't know if I can make it before that semi comes and smooshes me.

I often think back to what my professor told me in class and how much that lesson applies to life as well as writing. I can't read the ending of my life. I don't know if the things I'm pouring my life into, the dreams and passions that drive me and keep my schedule (and brain) in this constant state of insanity, will achieve the level of success I hope for. I move around a lot. I try to find my place. I move when the wind blows me and the moment feels right, and all that is because I don't know anything. I have no control of my future (and some days my present) -- and that's so incredibly hard for me.

I firmly believe it's because I don't have an outline. I also believe that's why I write from an outline -- because I do have to know what's happening. I thrive on control, because every writer knows that once the story is out there, we control nothing else. (Publishing is the worst industry for control-freaks, which is why I think a lot of authors are a little ADD and neurotic.)

Sometimes I think that life would be so much easier if I could plot it out like a book. If I could turn to the last page and know the ending. But then so much of that ending is the journey I get to experience in getting there.

As crazy as that journey is sometimes, as fast as those cars are when they zoom around me and as much as fingers hurt from trying to hold on, I don't know that I would trade any of that for a perfect ending. At least not today. (Ask me again if I survive May.)

1 comment:

  1. I read the endings to books too- but mostly if the stakes are high- like Harry Potter- stuff like that... When it comes to writing, I like knowing where I'm going, so I outline. I never follow it exactly, but it's comforting. For Camp Boyfriend, Joanne and I didn't decide on who Lauren ends up with until the end of the book so that was different for me, but I liked the process of being less in control.