I had so many ideas about where to begin, but it seems to start right here with these lyrics. After talking so much about following the passion of characters and your own life, it might be time to step back and talk a bit about the planning process and how it fits into life and writing. I saw Ani in concert back in the Summer of 1999, on the Inner Harbor in Baltimore, and though I was only a casual fan to that point, I found the evening quite inspirational. The passion in her performance, the fact that she was quite clearly having fun and doing something she loved – it spoke to me. It pushed me farther in my own art. Yet I never lost sight of how she had arrived at that point.
For those who aren’t familiar with her, she built her career from the ground up, starting her own record label as a way of avoiding major label interference, and has turned down lucrative offers to record for the major labels. She’s also been an outspoken critic of the major label system, and has successfully jump-started the careers of several other artists via her record label. That, combined with her passion, really made me think about how she fused her passion and love for her art with a business and planning acumen – the essence of the DIY ethic that I’ve spoken about, but for now let’s leave the DIY discussion in the past.
Continuing down this path…I don’t often watch television, but when I do, I watch shows like Intervention. Blame my fascination with abnormal psychology; there’s something about the recurring patterns and trying to read the situations that appeals to me. I’ve been accused of being a natural-born therapist, and perhaps I am, but let’s not forget that these skills also come in extremely handy when writing fiction. I’d be lying if I said some hints of these people don’t slip into the characters that I write, even if subconsciously, but that’s a topic for another time. For now, let’s talk about one of the traits that so many of the poor addicts on the show have: the delusion that somehow everything is going to work out. For instance, on a recent episode a girl in her late teens talked about how she and her boyfriend were going to end up with this large house with a lot of dogs and a perfect life, but I was absolutely perplexed as to how she planned for this to happen.
Granted, she was young, and the addiction had frozen her at an even younger age – something that I suspect happens to many of the addicts with this form of denial. The thought process is not unfamiliar to me, as I suffered from it myself for many years when I struggled with my own codependency, but again, that’s not my focus here. My focus is how many people who are otherwise reasonable and don’t seem to have addiction or co-addiction problems think in this same fashion. They don’t see how much power they really have over their own lives and remain stuck in “everyday life”, wondering why others “have all the luck”.
This is the point in the tale where everything starts to come together. We take the information from Point A – DiFranco’s savvy blend of planning and passion and blend it with Point B – the lack of planning that leaves people stuck in the rut of everyday life, season with a little bit of inspiration, and we start to see an answer emerge. Perhaps the answer to the doldrums of everyday life, to living on the treadmill of life, is to mix the passion of whatever it is that you truly love with some measure of planning to help dig out of the hole? Hell, with this approach, even if you fail, you can say you’ve done something truly exceptional in your life. Everyday that I practice this approach, I feel more alive and in touch with both who I am and the world around me.
But the nuts and bolts, the nuts and bolts, that is the true crux of the problem. Where to begin with the plan? How to harness all that excitement? I can’t tell you what will work for you, but I can tell you what works for me. Maybe you can take some of that and translate it into a workable idea for you.
Today, I will give you the outline of how I do it, and tomorrow I will expand on those points, as we’re already running a little long. It’s nothing earth-shattering, which makes me wonder why so few people really seem to pursue their dreams. The five steps are as follows, though they do have their own sub-steps, which we’ll examine tomorrow:
- Concept Creation
- Concept Growth
- Execution Plan
- Checklist for Follow-Up