A common question for writers is, “which are you, a plotter or a pantser?”
Up til about a year ago, if you’d ask me I’d say I was a pantser. I didn’t like to plan ahead, I preferred to let my imagine run wild and find out almost by surprise what my characters were getting up to.
But in the last year or so, I realised I didn’t have to be either a plotter or a pantser. I could be both, and in so doing, I became a better and more productive writer than I ever was before. And along the way, I realised that this lesson too could be applied to life in general.
Now I like to set out a brief structure of my story, outlining some of the key scenes I already have bubbling in my head. That gives me a path to follow, a direction in which to set my story. But when I write, I do it as a pantser. I set my characters’ feet down on the path I’ve set out for them, but then I let them take me where they want to go. Sometimes they go the same way I intended them to, sometimes they lead me an entirely different and wonderful new direction. But if I ever felt the story was starting to drift in unnecessary ways, I could always nudge my characters back to where they’re meant to be. It’s a good way to set my creativity free, yet still have some sort of structure.
And that’s when I realised, no one is actually completely a plotter or a pantser. Everyone’s a little bit of both. And that’s what life is like too. It’s always fun to be spontaneous and try new things and take unexpected directions in life. But it’s also good to have a little bit of a structure to pull yourself back in and gave some stability and direction to your life.
Plot out the important parts in your story. Then set yourself along that path and see where it takes you. Don’t be afraid to stray every now and then. You might find a better new way. Or you might find that the original path was the best, all the more so because you’ve returned to it with wonderful new experiences you’ve collected along the way.
Be a plotter. Be a pantser. Be both.