Blog Thoughts on Creativity

The Best-Laid Plans

Hey! It’s my first blog of 2019! And it’s January 23rd…

At the end of 2018, I had all of these plans. I was going to start 2019 with a wild burst of creativity and content. I was going to finish up my current draft of You and the Night – book three of The Muse Chronicles – by the end of January. I was going to post a YouTube video every week. I was going to blog here and post on my Instagram and Holonis and Twitter. All while magically managing to work my full-time freelance marketing/writing job, exercising two or three times a week, going to church, spending time with my husband and my family, and maybe getting out of the house once or twice to see a play or an art exhibit or something.

Lofty goals, right?

God/The Universe had other plans for me, though, as everything sort of fell apart on January 2nd. Day 2 of the new year.

Many of you know that my husband, Peter, is in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction. In addition to the disease of addiction, he suffers from some mental health illnesses. And just like any other illness, sometimes he gets sick, which is what happened at the beginning of the year. This turned out to be a blessing and sent him down a new path to recovery that he hasn’t traveled before. But of course, it was impossible for me to see that when it felt like everything was falling apart.

This blog post isn’t about my husband’s recovery, though. I’m going to let him tell that story. (And he’s documenting his recovery journey over on Holonis if you want to check it out.) I want to talk about something else. I want to talk about plans.

You know all the sayings about plans.  “Life is what happens to us while we’re busy making other plans.” “The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” etc. etc. And we should all know and accept the fact that often when we make plans, they will go to shit. Something will happen, and we won’t be able to stick to the plan. Or maybe your halfway in and realize you don’t even want to achieve the original goal you had. (How many of us changed our majors in college?)

So does that mean that we shouldn’t make plans at all? I don’t think so. We just need to learn how to adjust the plans that we have. And maybe it’s a constant action we have to take–for example, I originally planned to publish You and the Night sometime in 2018 and now I’m thinking late March or April of 2019. But for some of us, making plans is an important part of the process.

This applies to creative work as much as it applies to life. For example, among fiction writers, you have planners (people who make plans or outlines before they start writing) and “pantsers” (people who fly by the seat of their pants). I’ve always been somewhere in between. I make elaborate outlines, and then once I start writing, I rarely follow them and then I have to adjust my outline as I go along to figure out the story as I’m writing it.

But does that mean any of those first outlines are a waste? Absolutely not. Because in making those outlines and deviating from it, I learn more about the story I’m actually trying to tell–who my characters are and what really needs to happen. I think this is the same for any art form.

Now, there are those of us who are truly “pantsers” in both art and in life. People who never make plans. Peter’s creative process is very much like this. He just told me the other day he paints mostly “by accident.”

And that approach works for some people. More power to you. I’m not trying to tell any of you how you have to do things if you’ve found a system that works for you.

But for those of us who like to make plans, I don’t think we should stop making them just because they almost never work out the way we imagine they will. Because as we adjust our original plans, we learn more about who we are and how we actually want to go through life.

So if you’re someone who had all these lofty goals or plans for 2019 and it hasn’t worked out exactly the way you thought it would by the end of January, don’t feel discouraged. Just adjust your goals. And be grateful for everything the year has already taught you.