So anyone that reads this blog with any regularity knows that I have been on a kick to increase my productivity. One of my writing goals has been to begin self-publishing e-books and I haven’t been doing a very good job in that realm (as in, to date, I haven’t published any). So I have been researching how to help myself, and one of the books I am reading, 2,000 Words an Hour: A Step-by-Step Guide on How to Write Faster, Work Smarter & Finish Your Book Now, has nailed what the problem is. I’m a pantser. In writing circles there are two types of writers, there are pantsers and planners (or plotters). Pantsers “fly by the seat of their pants,” which pretty much describes most of my life, so why anyone would think I would write differently is beyond me. I like things to develop organically. I like things open-ended. In a world where one is allowed preferences, mine is to be flexible rather than rigid.
And it’s problematic at times.
So, I am learning to incorporate more of the planner aspects into my life. Not saying I’m reformed or anything, but I’m improving, at least that’s what I’m telling myself.
The truth is I have never been much of a planner. Anyone who knows me knows this about me. When my step-daughter was little it drove her crazy (she’s a planner). Often, Nikki would stay the weekend with us and sometime early in the day, she would ask what we were having for supper that night. I, of course, never knew. This baffled her. And frustrated her! She came from a long line or planners and the fact that we were not related through blood was never more blatantly apparent to her than during those moments when her young mind was reaching for stability, for the ability to know in advance what to expect, and I would not be counted on to provide it. It wasn’t until years later when she had four kids of her own and embraced sanity over attachment to plans that she surrendered to the idea that open-endedness had its merits. Kids have a way of waylaying the best-laid plans. She is still a planner, but the need for sanity overrode her desire to control. Sometimes, you just need to go with it.
By contrast, sometimes it’s much more efficient to plan. I will never be the person who separates and labels all the contents of my junk drawers and then puts them in alphabetical order. I love organization. I appreciate order, but I’m missing the OCD gene that requires it. I tolerate chaos very well (and I’m no slouch at creating it either). The house needs to be fairly out of control before I reach my breaking-point (and I definitely have one) and need order so I can regain my ability to think. I can look past a lot. And once I can’t, I’m really good at filling bins with whatever is laying around just so I can create the illusion of order. It’s an extremely effective way to procrastinate while alleviating the stress of being surrounded by too much stuff.
But wading through all of the crap to get to where I want to go is getting old. I’m not as patient as I used to be. Sometimes I just need to get to the point. So I’m valuing systems more and more. I’m developing more of them.
For writing this means doing some mind-mapping before I delve into a big project. I realized the other day that the reason I’m not getting the e-books done is that the project is too big to be manageable for my pantser ways. I need to be a planner. I suddenly remembered in high school when someone finally revealed the secrets to writing/organizing a paper. It made writing so much easier! For keeping the house under control it means adapting some of these good habits:
- If I don’t use it, or have some deep sentimental attachment to it, I get rid of it. I’m picking away at this. I still have tons of crap to sift through. (See the reference to bins above.)
- I try to remember not to leave a room empty-handed. I’m bad about this when I’m tired, but in the morning, when I look around and see way too many things out, I implement it at least sometimes.
- I’ve starting using Evernote to write things down. I have too much paper in too many places. With Evernote I can make the notes in my phone, on my laptop, on my computer or in my Kindle. They sync with each other and I can tag stuff to make finding things easier. I’m in the getting used to using this stage.
- I set goals – again in the getting used to stage
- I prioritize – repeat
That’s all I got. I’m still a pantser and I still will only do a certain amount of planning; I don’t like doing extra work, even though sometimes it’s unavoidable. But let’s face it, life happens and I’m not into being disappointed because things didn’t unfold the way I thought they should have. But there is something to be said for striking a balance between the two methods of being in the world. I’ll likely always be somewhat of a pantser for blog posts because they usually aren’t involved enough to plan out extensively, but I do want to get some e-books published, and that isn’t likely to happen until I embrace my inner planner and renounce some of my pantser ways.
Wish me luck.
To avoid overwhelm, I’ve found another app called Habitbull that addresses my pantser tendencies by keeping it small. My first habit will be to get into the habit of using it. You have to start somewhere!