In the last post I talked about the downside of Plan B–whether you ended up with Plan B because Plan A didn’t work out, or whether (like me) you opted for the “safe” route in hopes of eating while working toward being a full-time author/artist.
In this post I want to note The Upside Of Plan B–because there really are some great things about it (besides just having money to buy coffee and chocolate.)
This is number one because it colors all art, whether it is writing, painting, sculpting, composing…. Looking back, I’m a little scared to think what kinds of stories, poems, or paintings I would have come up with if I’d started right out of college. NOT that young people don’t have great stories to tell, and not that you have to experience everything in order to write about it. Reading, research, movies — those all broaden a person’s experience. But face it, with age comes more experiences — and those can lead to stories of greater depth and complexity. Having experienced many things first-hand makes it that much easier to describe in detail. So yeah, Plan B gave me time and opportunity to experience things I never even thought possible. (ah, the wild life of a librarian. Are you curious now?)
With experience comes perspective. It comes with time as well. And perspective can make all the difference. Sometimes when I’m painting, it looks like a mess until I step back and get the broader picture. That’s the heart of impressionism I suppose. Up close it looks like a whole bunch of brush marks, but when you step back–wala, Starry Night.
Here’s another example: my first novel is about a girl’s battle with clinical depression. Written in first person. Now an editor wants me to re-write it in third person in order that the reader might get a broader perspective. I doubt I could re-write it effectively if I myself didn’t have a broader perspective. There is a great article in Psychology Today on how writing can help heal. I know this first hand. I kept a journal during my two-year battle with depression. However, as noted in the article, time and perspective were needed for me to be able to turn that kind of writing into something meaningful for others (and not just page after page of wallowing, depressive angst) The ability to step out of your own story long enough to see where and how you fit into a larger work comes with time. Get the big picture.
3. Freedom to Fail
I guess I’m one of those play-it-safe kind of people that find it easier to soar when I have a safety net to catch me if I fall. I’m more inclined to try something new, take a risk, if I know that failure won’t result in well, something awful like not having enough money for food, (chocolate and coffee), bills, and other necessities. (like boots — one can never have too many boots). Plan B is my parachute. I don’t have to stress when I’m asked to re-write THE ENTIRE NOVEL. No problem. My kids aren’t going without boots in the winter just because the novel isn’t sold yet. Sigh of relief.
4. Unexpectedly Awesome Side Trips
Yup, my life journey hasn’t been a straight line cruise down the publishing highway, but being a librarian has been pretty freaking awesome. I get to read all kinds of superb YA fiction (because I now have two whole libraries to stock on someone else’s money – yay!), which in turn makes me a better writer. AND, I get to work with tweens and teens, most of them unique and cool and awesome. Great character development stuff–better than any workshop. I get to talk to students about writing and books, and hear their stories and share stories, and yeah, can’t complain. Way cool.
So, while Plan B has some downsides, it has some upsides as well. What are the upsides in your Plan B? I’m willing to bet they will–and probably already have–made you a better writer.