I’m a planner. I basically plan out every day before it happens. It’s always been a struggle for me to understand people who aren’t like this — especially when it comes to writing.
I’d meet writers who were amazed that I, at one point, had a goal to publish a novel by 2015. The fact that I knew when I was going to do that — and how I was going to make it happen — was so surprising to so many people. Their somedays and eventuallys and when-the-time-is-rights were the most confusing things in the world to my always-in-hyperdrive brain. What do you mean you don’t have a plan? WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU DON’T HAVE GOALS?
Not everyone is wired like me. Thank God. And I don’t think everyone is built to plan out their lives so obsessively. But I don’t always know what to say when people tell me they want to be writers, publish books, or start blogs without any due dates attached. So I ask what they’re doing now to Make The Future Happen. Too many people never have good answers.
You’re not a writer because you dream about writing. You’re a writer because you write stuff. Even still, if you don’t have any sort of direction — even a speck of an idea of what you want to do — no wonder you can’t stay motivated or ever finish a writing project. Your brain has no incentive unless you create one — and act on it constantly.
I think some people have a hard time connecting their present with their possible future. Everything you do now changes the way things will work out. If you work hard now, it will pay off. If you don’t, it won’t. Waiting doesn’t make things happen any faster — and neither does rushing through something (or taking the wrong kinds of shortcuts) to call it finished.
I didn’t know if starting a writing internship when I was 19 would ever help me get a job. But I did know that I needed writing experience regardless of how I ended up using it, and that I was never going to get a job without it. It took an uncertain future to make an active choice to do something that would shape it. Just because you don’t know where you will or where you want to be in five years doesn’t mean you can’t set a goal or make a flexible plan anyway.
You don’t have to have every day, week, or even month planned out. Some spontaneity is healthy (especially if some of your decision-making is driven by creativity). But you do need to actively pursue some kind of degree, skill, or experience so you can start learning and growing now. You don’t know what you’re preparing for — but it’s much better to be prepared for anything that comes along.
So — do you know what you want to do? When? How you’re going to get there? Of course, about 5 different things popped into my head just then. If you have a brain like mine, I am sorry.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a nine-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.