Have you ever been to the aquarium and seen the jellyfish? I went to the National Aquarium, and they had a tank full of ethereal jellyfish. I could have stood there for hours and watched them. They don’t swim, or move — they go with the flow of the currents. That’s the way it feels like when I write a novel without an outline — pantsing.
Post updated 5/28/2012
But it’s tough being a pantser. If you’re one, you know we can scare outliners because our process is so chaotic. It can be challenging to get a story finished and working. So I took a workshop that used a “pantser friendly” outline, thinking I just needed to find the right type of outline. There are many stories about pantsers seeing the light and discovering outlines.
The workshop turned into a 4-week nightmare. I watched as the instructor gave out the lessons, and every other writer instantly got the concepts. Me? I was left to mechanically follow the steps without understanding what I was doing. I couldn’t connect my creativity to outline. I almost quit the workshop every week because it was that much of a struggle for me. It was like swimming against a strong current.
But I had to try it, because failing at it was a breakthrough for me. I understand that my process was unique to me, and I needed to find ways that would work within it. Sometimes all the other things outside of us — craft books, other writers — can be too strong of an influence, and we spend our time trying to fit instead of finding our way. I still find myself unlearning things so my process can work the way it’s supposed to.
For you: Have you focused on getting it “right” according to someone else’s standards? Post your comments below.