I‘m a list-maker. I love them. I even add things that that weren’t on my original list, just for the pleasure of ticking something else off and seeing my achievements grow. I’m not a tidy list-maker (I’m not a tidy anything) but I’m an effective list-maker. Before one list is finished, I start another. Lists. Plans.
At the start of the year, I set myself some writing goals:
- Redraft my novel, Strong as Death, and update the second edition on Amazon in February 2015. Tick.
- Apply for some Arts Council funding. Tick.
- Redraft my second novel, Selkie. Tick
- Publish my second novel, Selkie, on Amazon at Easter. (No tick, but that’s because number 2 didn’t appear on my initial list, so I had to revise the publication date – end of first week in June at the latest). – Not-quite-tick-but-almost.
- Write first of my trilogy for 11-14 year olds.
It looks so neat, written like that. If you could see the actual list, it’s covered in arrows and appendices and sub-lists. A load of disorganised scribble to any mind not organised the way mine is.
Plans don’t always go the way you planned. Thousands of words I’d written for my next novel, copious notes in notebooks as well as several chapters, have all become irrelevant as I realised the holes in my plot. And once you have holes, there comes a point when just filling them in doesn’t actually work, and that’s the point you go back to the foundations and start again. Nothing’s been lost, but I now have a new, better story to write. Perhaps all the things that went wrong were just part of the process to get me to where I’m at now (pretty obvious really – a bit like saying you always find the keys you lost in the last place you look for them).
Life doesn’t always go the way you planned. Sometimes, you can choose to change your life plans, sometimes you can’t. I read somewhere that you should live as though you’ll die tomorrow and plan as though you’ll live forever. Wise living probably lies between those two extremes.
I grew up in a family where my parents’ plans were swept away with my father’s last heartbeat. Suddenly, where there’d been a family of five, there were four, where there’d been plans, there were none. Dad’s diary had appointments in it that he never got to keep. The house my parents and younger brother lived in (my sister and I were in our early twenties and had moved away by then) could no longer be a home – it came with the job of being vicar to three country parishes, a vocation Dad, along with Mum, had less than five years to put their hearts and souls into. Over the twenty two years more she lived without the man she fell in love with when she was just fifteen, I saw the faith Mum professed tested and stretched and proved. Mine stretched and snapped.
Four years ago, I was made redundant from work and the future I’d imagined, the plans I’d made evaporated. As I began to put the pieces back together, one of the most unexpected things I found myself doing was re-discovering my faith. Not the sort that had snapped before, but a different kind. The kind that doesn’t depend on my strength, my capacity to love, my ability to make things happen, my plans. Of course I still plan, but I’m building on different foundations now, ones that can withstand the way plans shift the ground from under your feet and vanish, as though they were no more than morning mist burned away by the sun.
I’m planning to publish Selkie by the end of the first week in June. I’m planning to write the opening chapter of my new novel this week. I’m planning to live my life to the full with the people I love most in this world. I’m planning on learning more each day about living a life that doesn’t depend on my plans alone.