The best laid plans



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:

  1. Redraft my novel, Strong as Death, and update the second edition on Amazon in February 2015. Tick.
  2. Apply for some Arts Council funding. Tick.
  3. Redraft my second novel, Selkie. Tick
  4. 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.
  5. 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.


23 thoughts on “The best laid plans

  1. Good for you to plan and do. The easiest is often not to do, for me at least. But as frustration rises I rouse myself to get and ‘do’. If more than a day passses without a bit of ‘doing’, I really get cranky and difficult.
    I hope you will follow you list of plans and write your new novel. It will be satisfying, I am sure.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Best laid plans go astray for me on a regular basis. There are some things I am very consistent about like posting photos on my blog every single day, taking care of the animals daily, and going to work. Other than that, plans change in an instant (I wish my old joints and muscles were as flexible as I have to be with my daily tasks — I often have to be an organizational contortionist). I delegate as much as possible at work because the chance of me getting interrupted to take care of some urgent matter is so likely I end up leaving things undone. It’s not uncommon for a client to ask for an update to a web application, I’ll start on it, get interrupted, forget that I didn’t finish, post the code and get a call from the client that the program isn’t working! Oops! I forgot to finish it. So my best laid plans need short durations. But then I have also learned that since the best laid plans can go awry from one moment to the next, I have learned to plan for the worst cases of the best laid plans going wrong. When we had a catastrophic failure of our main server a couple of years ago, I was able to restore all our data and our clients’ sites from the previous night’s backups of the backups (the first line backups went down with the server), and I had everyone up and running on other servers within two hours. So the “contingency plan” to deal with “the best laid plans” worked very well. And people wonder why when they ask me if I can do something or another I often answer “That’s contingent on…”

    Have a great week, Julia! And may all your plans go the way you planned them.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Phew! I’m exhausted just reading that … when you have a job that demands so much of your time and energy, it can leave you with no time, never mind energy, for anything else, especially when other people have priority over your time.

      “Organizational contortionist” – I love that 😀 Hope you have a week where your bedt laid plans don’t all become “contintent”. I look forward to seeing your next photo diary.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m not a list maker – perhaps that is part of my problem!

    I enjoyed reading about your journey – faith to no faith, and then back again, but this time to one that is richer, one that works with what you’ve learned along the way.

    I look forward to reading you newest book when published. More than halfway through ‘Strong As Death,’ I continue to be impressed with your sensitive and lovely way with a story. Surely good things must be in store for my favorite list maker. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. wktucker

    I’m a messy list maker as well…no one but me can make heads or tails of my scribblings. 😀
    Congratulations on all you’ve accomplished, Julia; I’m impressed.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This certainly resonated with me. I have daily lists— to which I regularly add any job done, just so I can cross it off. I find lists helpful as way of keeping myself focussed on the essentials (or what seem essential at the time), by getting the routine thngs out of the way and leaving space for writing. Of course, it often doesn’t work; life gets in the way. But it does mean I’m not wasting time trying to remember what I’ve forgotten to do!


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