How I Became a Plantser

Writer was never on my list of things to do in life. Circumstance pushed me into writing, which I kicked against for a long time before accepting writing is God’s will for me.

I started writing when I taught an adult Sunday school class in the 90s. Initially, the Sunday School Superintendent gave me curriculum to teach. When he asked me what book I wanted to teach next, I said, “The Bible.” That was the end of curriculum that had already been outlined for me to follow.

A rough outline which was more like a list of the major points I wanted to cover became the foundation I used to teach. One day, Elise, a single mother from Honduras, walked into my class with a cassette recorder. She planned to record my lessons and translate them into Spanish, so she could put them on the radio in her homeland.

I was flatter that she thought Honduras needed me, but I really did not think it would work. She worked as a hairdresser, raising two children alone, and I doubted she had the money to accomplish her goal. But I don’t like to discourage people. Better to help them and let them find out for themselves what works and what doesn’t.

The recordings on the cassette were hard to hear. To help her translate the lessons, I wrote everything I planned to say.  That is when I discovered plotting before you write does not work for me.

I would lay out my detailed outline of the lesson and start typing. But when I finished something different and a thousand times better ended up on paper. After throwing away a few outlines, I stopped making them.

That was sufficient for Elise to accomplish her goal. Until other students asked for copies and told me “You should be published,” which I ignored as lunacy. Until God shut the door on teaching and my only option was to pursue writing.

I quickly learned that messy unedited lessons written from a stream of consciousness should not be published. They tend to be a repetitious random collection of thoughts that you understood when you wrote them but difficult for the reader to follow.

Today, I start writing from a stream of consciousness, which makes me a pantser. Then I shift gears and outline the messy collection of thoughts, which makes me a plotter. Incorporating both methods leaves the door open for creativity and the structure of an outline offers a clear message for the reader.

That is why I am a plantser.

For the curious, Elise did not have the means or finances to put me on the radio in Honduras. But she did start my writing career. Maybe, one day, something I write will bless Honduras.

 

 

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