Why we all need a flexible plan

We’ve all done it – set out a plan in our heads of how we would like life to work out. I don’t mean once our lottery numbers come up when our world will consist of azure seas, large, airy houses and fabulous cars or is that just me? I mean the day to day, life plan, of how we get from here to there.

It’s all in the planning

When it comes to life, it’s good to have a plan. It gives you a roadmap for when things get bumpy. It helps keep you on the straight and narrow when circumstances can knock you off course. I’m a fan of planning.

Plans
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What I’m not a fan of, however, is having a plan so rigid there is no room for manoeuvre. If you think there is only one way to get from A to B you risk closing your mind to the possibilities that might occur if you travelled down a different road.

I am reminded of an old joke.

A man is sitting on a roof after a terrible flood. He watches the waters rise and thinks ‘God will save me.’ An hour or so later, a man comes along in a boat and offers to take him to safety. ‘No need,’ says the man on the roof. ‘God will save me.’

The waters continue to rise. A few hours later a helicopter hovers overhead and a man offers to winch him up and fly him to safety. ‘No need,’ says the man again. ‘God will save me.’

Later that night the waters close over the man’s head. When he meets St. Peter he says ‘What am I doing here? I thought God would save me.’ And St. Peter says, ‘We sent a boat and a helicopter. What more do you want?!’

Don’t Stay on the Roof

The moral of the story is that we have to be ready for the unexpected. When opportunities present themselves we shouldn’t ignore them because they don’t fit within our carefully constructed plan. They could be a valid way to get from A to B that we’ve never thought of before or they could take us in an entirely new direction and deliver us to a whole new destination that we could never have envisaged.

In this fast paced world, we have to be adaptable and less rigid in our thinking.   Having a flexible life plan enables you to do that.

So don’t stay on the roof, refusing to budge, because it isn’t part of your plan. Be prepared to jump in the boat if one comes along and see where it takes you.

Boat
Boat by Ivan Milosavljevic courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/dff6Kr https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/
white lies
White Lies by Ellie Holmes http://Author.to/EllieHolmes
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Money isn’t everything

In Colchester, Essex the hunt is on to find the holder of a lottery ticket worth £8 million. They have until 13th March 2017 to claim their prize.

lotteryjpg
Lottery by K J Payne courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY-SA 2.0

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It’s a life changing sum of money but there have been plenty of instances of lottery winners who thought their dreams had come true only to see that dream turn into a nightmare because money isn’t everything and a large sum of money can bring with it a complex set of problems alongside the flying champagne corks and I’m not talking about whether you should buy a yacht or a sports car or both.

sunseeker
Sunseeker v Baja by Lets Go Out Bournemouth courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0

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Squabbles amongst families and rising tensions between husbands and wives are the stories that hit the headlines months and years after the champagne has gone flat. It isn’t the money itself that tears people apart rather it has a way of exacerbating the fault lines that already existed in a relationship before the potent mix of lots of money got added to the pot.

It’s good to aim high. It’s lovely to have dreams. Just make sure your foundations are solid before you start reaching for the stars or have them handed to you on a plate.

  1. Be true to yourself.
  2. Tell the people you care about that you love them.
  3. Show that love in what you do not just in what you say.
  4. Take pleasure from the simple things in life – a leaf caught on the breeze, a beautiful sunset, a roaring fire.
  5. Cherish happy times.
  6. Look for the good in people.
  7. Give second chances to yourself and to others.
  8. Smile even if your heart is breaking
  9. Practice random acts of kindness.
  10. Remember that somewhere inside all of us there is a clock ticking so don’t waste precious moments on those who don’t deserve your time.
  11. Never be afraid to live, laugh or love.
  12. Don’t strive to be happy because happiness is ephemeral. Strive for contentment instead.
contentment
Contentment by Mario courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0

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The Perfect Sentence?

On Monday I blogged about the Japanese tradition of Wabi Sabi – the art of appreciating beauty in an imperfect world. Novelists should embrace the concept of wabi sabi. For writers who strive to create the perfect sentence are not only likely to fail but drive themselves nuts in the process.

Wabi sabi
Wabi-Sabi by Kelly Teague courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY-SA 2.0

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Anne Lamott in her excellent book ‘Bird by Bird’ extols the virtues of ‘writing a shitty first draft’ and I applaud her for it. Write the story that is buzzing around in your head, capture those characters, their voices and their hopes and fears. Don’t worry about the story arc or a particular character’s journey. Don’t try to craft the perfect sentence, scene or chapter. Just write the story. Capture its essence, it’s heart. If you love it, others will too.

The rest will come on the second run through and countless edits but if you write with the handbrake off and let the story explode out of your head and through your fingers and on to the screen or page if you write longhand, the spirit of the story will shine through.

Shine
Shine by Rodnei Reis courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0

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When you come to start the edits try to get the concept of the perfect sentence out of your head. We all want to write the best books we can but if you get hung up on the little details you will find the editing process a constant source of frustration instead of the joy it can become as we see our book grow with each change and rewrite.

You need to do enough to shape the book into all it can be but not so much that you deaden the writing and lose the essence of what you worked so hard to capture in the first place. It’s a delicate balancing act but one worth pursuing and far more worthwhile than wasting your time and energy chasing the perfect sentence.

Balance2
Egg balanced on forks by Clint Budd courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0

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If such a thing as the perfect sentence exists and one day you create it you can allow yourself a moment’s pride. But remember a perfect sentence does not make a novel. It’s the thousands of other imperfect sentences that will make the difference. Novels are wabi sabi and that’s okay by me.

Open Book
Open Book Pages by Jo Naylor courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0

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99.9% Perfect

Perfection is hard to attain and impossible to sustain so for those who pursue it we are constantly setting ourselves up for failure. What is it about giving ourselves permission to be less than perfect that we struggle with? Is it the fear of being judged by others? That niggling doubt that everyone is better than us so we must therefore try harder?

Try harder
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Being a perfectionist is exhausting. You are caught in a never ending loop of striving to achieve whether it be the perfect outfit, the perfect house, holiday or job. Take your pick. A perfectionist can drive themselves nuts arranging a bunch of flowers quickly forgetting the beauty of the individual blooms, focusing only on their own inability to get the flowers to look ‘just right’. Chances are anyone visiting would see the flowers and think how wonderful they looked but our own perception is forever skewed by the battle we had arranging them. We beat ourselves up for not achieving our own ridiculously high standards.

Tattered and tornjpg
Tattered and Torn by Becca courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY-ND 2.0

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The moments when perfection is attained are so brief that the pleasure we derive from them is fleeting. How much better it would be if we could learn to find harmony and beauty in the less than perfect. It’s okay to strive for perfection but how much better it would be to take pleasure in something even if it falls a little short.

Perfectionists would be wise to study the Japanese tradition of Wabi Sabi – the art of appreciating beauty in an imperfect world. It embraces three simple realities: nothing lasts, nothing is finished and nothing is perfect (Richard Powell – Wabi Sabi Simple).

The much loved but chipped vase is wabi sabi. The plant that refuses to be symmetrical is wabi sabi. You and I are wabi sabi.

Wabi sabi
Wabi-Sabi by Kelly Teague courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY-SA 2.0

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So instead of trying to make everything bend to our will, propagating our own particular brand of perfectionism why not step beyond the confines of the perfect. Life is wabi sabi and always will be so we may as well get used to it. How much easier it would be to live in harmony with an imperfect world by appreciating it for what it is instead of disliking it for what it isn’t and never will be.

Imperfect
Imperfect by Seaternity courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY-SA 2.0

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