There’s Plotting and there’s Planning…and Then There are Surprises

I’m a plotter, never a pantser. Would I love to be (more of) a pantser. Oh, heck, yes. In writing and in life. In life, I’m a planner, although I will stake a claim to have loosened up at least somewhat in the last decade or so. But I love and use lists and calendars, and if they’re not crutches, they are definitely tools.

Still, I’m learning to welcome surprises, even when they sneak up on me without too much warning. As I headed into Asilomar two Fridays away, I knew that I hadn’t really identified what I wanted to get out of the conference. I had hopes and dreams, as we always do, but I hadn’t done much visualization or intentionalizing–probably fear of failing at those dreams was getting in my way. It turned out well, though, because the big surprise (for me) was how resoundingly I responded to all the motivational and dream-based talks I hears. Typically, I am looking and hoping for craft support–specific writing tools and how-to’s. I surprised myself with some of my workshop choices, and I surprised myself by how well I came back from down moments and by how deep into my heart I felt the happiness of the weekend.

When I look at where I am on my writing path, there are surprises there. Oh, sure, there are some that feel more like disappointment than happiness, but there are some pretty good ones, too. If you’d told me ten years ago, even five, that I’d have switched my agent search from agents who represent Middle Grade and Young Adult to those who rep MG and picture books? I’d probably have laughed, you know, in a nice way. Picture books? Seriously?

Well, yeah. I started that part of my journey while I was writing The Writing & Critique Group Survival Guide, with an idea that I wanted to follow through outside the book. And now I have four picture books that, well, while they’re not as ready as I thought they were before last weekend, they’re pretty darned good and I am definitely in love with them. With the characters, the stories, and–oh, yeah–the writing process of bringing them together. Young adult? Doesn’t feel like anything I want or need to be writing. Twists and turns, and surprises.

Who knew? When I started this blog, I knew logically that the writing path I was going to talk about would be one of curves and hills, fallen trees and patches of quicksand. But as I move along it, continuing the climb, I understand the challenges of the route at a deeper level. And I know, too, that there’s always the possibility I’ll come around a corner and catch a glimpse of a rainbow, maybe even the shimmer of that pot of gold.

Because there are always surprises.

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