#writing thought of the day: less planning, more writing. I do love planning. But I need to do more writing. That’s the feeling as of late.
— Liana Silva (@literarychica) January 24, 2013
The allure of plans
Plans offer us the illusion of control.
You consider what is possible. You consider the resources available. You anticipate problems and work out how to respond to them.
Control is always limited
As Robert Burns put it in To A Mouse
“The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft agley.
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!”
You can’t predict every possibility.
Writing (and other creative) projects are especially prone to diverging from the plan. It is in the nature of the work.
As you write, you develop your thinking. What seemed like a solid and interesting argument in the planning stage develops more nuance as you write it. Or turns out not to be the most interesting thing to say about this subject.
No amount of planning will prevent this grief and pain.
Putting planning in it’s place
Dwight D Eisenhower put it well:
“In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”
A good plan sets clear boundaries around a project. It enables you to determine the resources (of knowledge, time, etc) you have and the resources you need.
You can plan how to acquire resources you don’t have. Or you can redraw the boundaries of the project to adapt to the constraints.
You can even anticipate some of the things that could throw off your plans and figure out how you might respond.
However, at some point you must stop planning and start doing.
Experimenting to find the balance
The great advantage that writing plans have over battle plans is that you can experiment with how much planning is optimum without risking anyone’s life.
You can even try starting to write with no plan at all (this is often called “freewriting”), something that is really not advisable where weaponry is involved.
You can go back and forth between planning and writing. Plan a bit. Write a bit. Plan some more. Write some more.
How does planning fit into your writing routine?
Please share your strategies in the comments.
What’s worked for you?
What’s not working?
What are your gremlins worried about when it comes to changing the balance of planning and writing?
Book Proposals, a particular kind of writing plan
Tags and categories updated July 14, 2015.