Some Thoughts on Planning and Fickleness

Even in the world of creative writing there are two types of writers: Plotters and Pantsers. The Plotter is one who plans his novel in advance. A Pantser sits down on his pants and writes the first sentence and trusts in God for the second – which is usually what I do. There are people who plan their lives to the last bit of freedom and strive to live accordingly. While it’s a great way to defy procrastination, planning ahead of all your activities during the day can deprive you of the joy of spontaneity in your life.

Probably the difference between the two types of people is best described by Mikhail Bulgakov in his work about St. Petersburg:

Still having trouble telling the Petersburger from the Moskvich? Try this simple experiment.

Take one Petersburger and one Moskvich and place together in an empty room. Lock the door. Bar all windows. Sit down outside and wait.

When half an hour later a head squeezes its way out of the ventilation shaft, it can belong to only one of the two inmates: the Moskvich. He brushes off his hair, smooths down his suit. “Sorry,” he says in explanation; “Got an appointment to keep.”

Now unlock the door. Go away. Come back half an hour later. Look inside: the Petersburger has not moved from where he was last seen – seated comfortably inside a dense cloud of cigarette smoke. Asked why he hasn’t taken the opportunity to escape, he replies: “Escape! Escape! Can’t you see I’m expecting guests. Someone could drop in and see me any moment now.”

Lock the door again. Come back two hours later.

There are now two Petersburgers in the room. Two Petersburgers drinking tea, amidst two separate clouds of smoke. The original specimen has been supplemented by a friend – who has dropped in off Nevsky Prospekt through the ventilation shaft. In the tradition of the impromptu St Petersburg guest, he has not come empty-handed.

Go back out. Return three days later. There are now five distinct clouds of smoke in the locked room…

Now check on the Moskvich’s activities and whereabouts. In the last three days he has: sold his flat (twice), bought three new cars, married, divorced, formed a new political party, married and divorced again, and written a postmodernist account of the half an hour he spent in your locked room.

Now do you see?

Truth is without plans there is more joy in the existence.

It’s a different philosophy of life: some people like “doing,” and some people just like “being.” “Doing” means accomplishing tasks and errands. People who love “doing” claim that it makes them feel busy, necessary, precious and important. They say: “I feel useful!” They need to have done stuff in order to feel good about themselves. While people who like “being” are simply more happy and relaxed. They claim they enjoy the moment and delight in any beautiful activity or thought that can occur naturally without planning.

I notice what my grandmother does. She is always “on the go” handling important tasks such as cooking and maintaining the home. When she does not do anything – she gets nervous and starts inventing activities for herself, and for everybody else in the house. She loves work!

But there is another way to enjoy work… to actually delight in the natural flow of activities. Without pressure, in harmony with your inner essence – this is called improvisation and if you lay back in the hands of improvisation you will rise to greatness.

The male principle is active – “doing,” the female principle is passive – “being.” We should let our “being” nourish and nurture our “doing.” Our “doing” has to be charged by our “being” in order for us to perform well.

Why do our plans fail?

Planning is an exquisite art. The main idea of planning is not to produce a list of things that should be done – which is usually our definition of it. The main idea is to break these achievements in small, doable activities. This is something that can be and has to be done only on the spur of the moment. So if you have the “big picture” to strive to, in order to be successful you should break it into manageable units. That’s what intuition often does for us.

You want to write a book. Write. A few words make a sentence. Write. A few sentences make a paragraph. Write. A paragraph makes a chapter…and so on. Write!

Write instead of sitting down, biting your nails and trying to plan your writing.

Writing is usually an inner journey, one of the best ways of “being” known to humanity and this is why I am so fond of it. One of the ways is to plan every step of the way – which train you will take, which museum are you going to visit, which monument, which restaurant, which hotel. On the other hand “being” would be to leave one morning taking with you only your toothbrush and some clean underwear…and head straight to the adventure. Yes, it’s a bit crazy, but those are the kind of people celebrated by life itself.

It’s great to say with pride in the end of the day: look, I’ve done this! It is one of the definitions of success. But if you want to have an incredibly worthy life, you have to be able to Carpe Diem and that happens only if you follow your heart always. While “doing” is essential for the human mind, “being” is the default state of the soul.

Say hello to the day! Behold, it is yours to make! Let your soul dance in the experience…


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