Some writers are planners, others are pantsers.
Ever heard these terms? Books, blogs, and podcasts that teach you how to write a book divide most authors into these two categories. A planner is someone who meticulously plans his book, writes an outline, maybe even has a thought-out list of chapters, and knows exactly what will happen in each chapter before he even starts writing. A pantser is someone who just “goes with the flow” and just writes spontaneously to see where it takes him.
It’s a big fat lie. These two types of authors are maybe 1% of all writers, while 99% of them fall somewhere in-between. It’s a spectrum, not two categories. Some plan more, some are more spontaneous, but almost every writer has at least some degree of planning and some degree of flexibility.
The worst kind of pantser, in my view, is the one who doesn’t know how the book will end when he starts writing. If I read a detective novel, I want clues about who the murderer is, and when I find out, I want to be able to hit myself on the forehead and exclaim, “How did I not see that coming?” I want to see foreshadowing and realize that “oh that’s what that was about” when I reach the conclusion. An author who doesn’t start the novel knowing how he will tie it together will ruin that.
However, if the pantser has planned a little and decided on an ending, he is much more likely to bring me along. His novel might even be totally indistinguishable from the book of a planner. I’m a bit like that myself. Having an ending in sight, knowing where I am going, enables me to set the stage a lot easier. When I write, I start out with a general idea and an arch, some key characters, and knowing how it will end, and then I plan three or four chapters ahead and see where it takes me. Once I finished those chapters, I plan the next few, and so on. But the most important thing is – I always know the ending in advance, and I know where I am going. Some people call people like me a plantster.
Our Christian life is a life of a plantster. We know the ending in advance – heaven. We might also know the next few chapters in our life. But we don’t really know what awaits us around the corner and where our life will take us.
Just like the writer, you have characters that come and go in your life that you can’t really control. You can plan something and it works out exactly the way you wanted it, or it all crashes and burns. Just like the writer, you will have different chapters in your life, and you will like some chapters more than others. And just like the writer, you are working towards an end goal that is fixed and known. You’re just not sure about the way there.
This is not to say that the way is not important. If the end was the only important thing, we would just skip to the end of the book, wouldn’t we? But we don’t, because we enjoy the journey. And that’s what you need to do as you write the book of your life – make it matter. Make the journey be worth the grand ending you know is awaiting. A boring book with a spectacular ending is still a boring book. A book with a plot that contradicts and takes away from the ending is confusing and badly written. Your life story needs to point to the end goal you know is coming.
Just like the writer, you have less control of your story than you think. But just like the writer, you also need to have an active main character that makes things happen. Have you ever read a book with a passive character who just lets events happen, and he reacts to the events? Neither have I. You know why? Because they are rejected and never published. The main character of a story has to be active, take initiative and make things happen. The fact that the writer knows the ending and where the story is going is not an excuse to allow the characters to be passive. On the contrary, the character needs to bring about the ending the writer is working towards.
In your story, you are both the writer and the main character. Yes, you know the ending, but don’t be passive. Bring it about. Make it matter. Be a good influence in the lives of the people around you, and make sure that people who hear about you and your life story are inspired.
Live a life that matters and that honors God – and then reach the glorious ending, knowing you made the journey as beautiful as you possibly could make it.
This article originally appeared on Tuvia’s blog, June 11, 2022, and reposted with permission.