I’ve signed up for NaNoWriMo this year and I’ve been looking at the planning events and prep workshops — I say ‘looking’ but ‘putting my hands in my pocket and whistling by’ is a fairer description. You see, while some people are ‘Planners’, I am very much, beyond any doubt, what you’d call a chronic ‘Pantser’ — I create by the seat of my pants. I’m in awe at those who can plan and plot, and create beautiful work as a result; but when it comes to creativity, organisation and structure just sends me fleeing. I create out of chaos not order.
I don’t have a problem finding time to write 1,700 words a day, I don’t have an issue with motivation (much); what makes me nervous is that I’ve been prompted to think of a title, synopsis, and a short extract. That alone has hit the panic button! It’s not how I work.
As strange as it may sound, when I write, my stories guide me not the other way around, my characters create themselves, and a title is something I think about afterwards only because I have to.
My way of preparing for a story is by sitting down and writing the story.
Stephen King, in his excellent memoir, On Writing (which I urge you to pick up a copy of), reveals his distrust of plots; because, he says, ‘our lives are largely plotless’ and because ‘plotting and spontaneity of real creation aren’t compatible’. I agree. And a lack of outlining hasn’t harmed his forty-odd year career so far.
One of my favourite writers, Haruki Murakami, once said he never has a plan; he doesn’t choose the story or plot but rather, he just writes and ‘waits for the story to come’. That sounds like my kind of plan!
And master storyteller, Ray Bradbury, is quoted as saying that a ‘plot is no more than footprints left in the snow after your characters have run by on their way to incredible destinations’.
And this is how I write, it’s how all my stories write themselves. I’m a creator and dreamer first and a plotter only if I have to be.
As an INFP, I like to tease out the magic by intuition while leaving all possibilities open. I create by instinct as I go rather than through prior planning — by forgoing the torchlight and delving deep into the darkness and feeling my way through. As an INFP, I like to keep my options open, scout out the exits before entering a situation, and I have no qualms about changing direction halfway through (or even quitting if I don’t ‘feel’ the story). And that is why plotting, outlining, and title-thinking don’t work for me.
Like life, a story should be a string of spontaneous (often absurd) incidences that lead on, enfold and entangle within each other; in that sense I focus on situations and let the bigger plot reveal itself as I go (and I often surprise myself in the process). Characters and details are usually fleshed in subsequent re-drafts, not set in stone from the start.
I like to create from a lower level of consciousness where there is a deeper sense of creativity and peace. I’m a huge fan of fellow INFP, David Lynch, whose work often seems plotless and dreamlike, and like Lynch I meditate in order to create. Through meditation, I find I can leave my concerns at the side and dive into a limitless ocean of calm clarity from which I glimpse and dream up new worlds.
So, with T-minus 4 days until NaNoWriMo, I have no idea what November will bring, and that’s the way I like it.
If nothing else, I’ll just keep meditating and writing 1,700 plotless words every day for my untitled novel, and see what happens.
If you’re involved this year, whether you’re a ‘Planner’, a ‘Pantser’ or a bit of both, good luck and keep writing.
2016 Occasional Dreams