Planning versus pantsing. It’s one of the great debates amongst writers. Which is the best? Why? What are the pros and cons of each?
I’ve discussed this before, but with Camp NanoWriMo just ending (I failed to reach my goal by the way…very sad about that) I figured I’d bring it up again, since Nano has been traditionally all about pantsing.
For those who don’t know, “pantsing” (or “flying by the seat of your pants”), is basically the exact opposite of planning. Rather than work out your plot line, character archs, and important scenes beforehand, you just write, going for quantity over quality, and deal with the results in editing.
Today I’m going to discuss a different kid of proponent for “pantsing”. I’m going to discuss my wedding.
Many women plan their wedding to death. They drill every detail into the ground. What color are the napkins going to be? Oh no, we can’t sit Aunt Agnus next to Cousin Greg! My shoes can’t have a silver beading on them, it all has to be white!!!!
You can’t really blame them too much because for many women their wedding is the most important day of their life, something they’ve been waiting for since they were little girls. It has to be perfect. It has to be flawless. Any misstep will follow her around for the rest of her days.
When I first started planning my wedding I was a little crazy as well. Even though I didn’t even want half of the bells and whistles that one is used to seeing at a wedding, I still wanted it to be perfect. No room for error!
But here’s the thing…things started going wrong almost immediately. Little things at first, like when I couldn’t find a printer to do the invitations. Then it was big things, like when two of my hubby’s three groomsmen had to cancel. Finally it was an enormous thing: we heard word that our venue – a bed-and-breakfast style inn with lovely grounds – was going out of business. I’ll admit, in those days I nearly had a nervous breakdown. At the time that we heard about the venue we only ha about two months to the wedding, and the invites had all already been sent. How was I going to find another venue this late and communicate the change to some 200 possible guests? I spent more than one work day gritting my teeth and trying not to burst into tears in front of all my coworkers.
As it turned out, the venue held on a little longer and we were still able to have the wedding there. When I found this out not only did a huge weight life from my shoulders, but my entire attitude toward the wedding changed. I realized that yes, things were going to go wrong. Things were going to turn out differently than I imagined. Things were not going to be perfect and flawless. That’s just life. And when I realized this and accepted it, it made all the difference to my psyche.
No, relaxing and letting things flow did not suddenly and magically make everything work out wonderfully. We still had lots of issues. My wedding dress almost wasn’t hemmed in time. The venue manager forgot to order the tent, which would have been a disaster of it had rained. My bridesmaids and I woke up the morning off feeling sick as dogs. My uncle mistook the seating set-up for the church equivalent and had the front row completely empty, expecting the wedding party to sit there. My mother-in-law went head-over-heels trying to get a picture of me coming down the aisle. I could go on, but the point is that it doesn’t matter. Despite everything we had to deal with before and during the wedding day, the wedding was beautiful. We got married on the sunniest day we’d seen yet that summer. My best friend’s father played beautiful music for us and we took hundreds of gorgeous pictures. We had a ton of fun drinking and dancing with our friends and family. And in the end, the most important bit happened: my husband and I traded rings and became man and wife.
I tell you all of this not because I think “pantsing it” is the only way to go. I’m not trying to convince you that everything will be cupcakes and unicorn rides if you just go with the flow. But if you can convince yourself I the truth – that nothing in this world is perfect and that trying to obtain perfection, especially on the first try, is tantamount to insanity – you’ll be a lot better off. I could have obsessed about every little thing that went askew with my wedding, but I choose to focus on everything that went right, because that’s what really matters.
I challenge you to apply this way of thinking to many areas of your life, whether it be your own wedding, writing a book, building a house, teaching yourself a new skill, expectations you have for your children, or any other number of life events. I won’t promise that everything will magically work out for the better, but I’d be willing to bet that you’ll be significantly less stressed out.