The Impatient Writer

by limebirdvanessa

First I gave you The Introverted Writer, then I gave you The Silent Writer, and now I give you The Impatient Writer. This post was actually inspired by Limebirdkate’s post, Pantsing Revisions (I wonder if there’s a record for how many previous Limebird posts can be linked to from one post!). For anyone who is still not sure, pantsing is a term to describe writing without planning or outlining first; writing by the seat of your pants.

I’m not going to make any assumptions about anybody else, but I’ll say that for me, I think the reason I’m a pantser is because I’m impatient. If I’m going to do something, I just want to get on with it and get it done as soon as possible. I really like painting walls, but I just want to grab the brush and pot of paint and start painting, it’s such a drag to have to clean the walls first, fill in any cracks, put tape over bits you don’t want paint on etc. In the comments part of Limebirdkate’s post, she mentioned that she has a short attention span. That’s me too, and I think that is very much related to being impatient, I worry that I’ll get bored of something if I have to spend too long on it.

Whenever I think about planning vs pantsing, it always makes me think of sewing. I never enjoyed sewing lessons at school because of how many different stages you had to go through. If I could have just grabbed some fabric and whizzed it through the sewing machine, that would have been fine, but there was all that careful cutting and pinning and tacking to do first. A friend of mine designs and makes wedding dresses. And, as I’m sure is common practice, when she is making a dress for a bride, she will first make a complete dress out of cheap fabric, just to check that it’s all going to work properly and fit well. Then once everyone is happy, she makes the whole dress again out of the lovely expensive fabric. I am in complete awe of this; I could never do what she does. Of course I understand the logic of doing that, but I simply can’t imagine spending hours and hours making something that won’t be used.

When it comes to planning novels, some people write whole back stories about their characters and situations, even though that writing isn’t going to be actually used in the novel – I completely get it, I totally see how this would enrich the writing, but I don’t have the patience, I just want to get on with it. The only exception is research, I’m perfectly happy to do plenty of research on a subject before I start writing because I find that interesting, but once that’s done, I don’t want to delay the writing process any further.

I’m doing NaNoWriMo this year, and in order to try and avoid writer’s block, I’m working hard to do some planning and outlining now so that I can hit the ground running in November. I haven’t actually started this planning and outlining yet, but I’m working hard in my head to convince myself that I must!

So my question today is this – is impatience/having a short attention span a particular pantser trait?

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62 Responses to “The Impatient Writer”

  1. I am definitely an impatient writer (and impatient in all aspects of my life). If someone is doing a job, I want to do that job. Then I do that job and I don’t want to do it any more. I hate waiting around, I always want to go straight into stuff the same as you. I’m also a pantser, so I’d say yes for me!

  2. I didn’t know I’m a “pantser” until I read this post! Terrific! I never really plan on how my writing goes; I just write and write and edit the parts I don’t like. Love the spontaneity of impatient writing. 😀

  3. I think it might be. It feels like a waste of time whenever I tried to plot more than a page synopsis, because when I actually write the book, it goes completely off track. Things come to me as I write. I far prefer revising to writing the first draft, so I like to get through the first draft as quickly as possible and then fix my mess. Also, as I write more books, I realize that more things are becoming second nature, like hooks and creating tension. So yes, I think impatience and being a pantser goes hand in hand.

    • Yes, that summarises how I feel, it feels like a waste of time to spend too much time planning, even though I can understand the logic of it. I think I might prefer fixing the mess afterwards than creating it in the first place too!

  4. You draw an analogy to sewing. Perhaps another analogy could be with playing an instrument. I used to hate practicing the flute/guitar/piano. Doing scales was boring – Having a short attention span, I just wanted to dive straight into playing some awesome music. As a result, I found myself hitting a barrier on all three instruments. I could happily pick up a tune, but I was never an amazing player and I think this was down to the lack of practicing scales. Does this mean pantsing is bad practice? Perhaps.

    With writing, if I have an idea, I just want to roll with it. Now. Failure to do so will leave me vulnerable to forgetting the idea (which seem to float in and out of my head like the a tide).

    Personally, I feel that pantsing is the easy way and it has a place in getting your ideas out in the quickest way possible. But to get the most rewards out of writing, you might have to go the long, boring route of planning. From my point of view – and I’m saying this as an unqulified internet pipsqueak – NaNoWriMo is great for getting creative juices flowing; great for writers to challenge themselves and great for writers to learn important skills (such as not getting distracted by spelling or grammatical mistakes whilst writing the first draft and ways to overcome writer’s block). But what NaNoWriMo isn’t great for is teaching discipline in planning.

    Thought-provoking post, Vanessa. I think pantsing has its place, but it’s definitely a trait of impatience.

    • Rather like your music, I’m the same with acting – I do some acting and whilst I love it when I’m actually performing on stage, or on camera, I hate learning my lines, or doing any of the other prep work that should really be done.

      I actually wrote this post a couple of weeks ago, so I have started doing some very basic planning for NaNo since then because I’m pretty sure it’s the only way for me to have any hope of getting through it.

  5. I think I’m a patient writer. Too patient sometimes. I’ll wait and wait until it’s ready to expose to the world. Obviously I’m tinkering with it while I’m waiting but I’m not so impatient to get it out before it’s ready. Even comments like this I’ll read over at least once for typos and flow etc. before hitting Post. It’s maddening sometimes! 🙂
    Relating that to pantsing, I think I mentioned that I tend to plan more than pants so that is consistent with your question. For me at least. I’d be interested in a more comprehensive survey. Back tomorrow to read comments! 🙂

    • I think sometimes the delay in exposing it to the world can be a lack of confidence rather than patience – I don’t mean for you (I have no idea about your confidence levels!), I just mean that I know a lot of pantsers to falter for a long time at the final hurdle before putting it out there! With my posts on my own blog, I will usually rattle them out fairly quickly with only a vague idea of what I’m going to write about, but then I might end up reading it through 20 times before actually hitting ‘Publish’ and I think that’s a confidence thing not a patience thing!

      • You might be right about that. Even in my case. Although I’m a bit of a pedantic bastard with spelling an grammar. I want to make sure it’s right before posting. In fact I had a little panic attack about an hour ago when I came back to an unfinished draft and accidentally hit publish. I’m stressing about un-publishing it (you can’t), trashing it, realising you can’t edit a trashed post, restoring it, copying the text, trashing it again and pasting into a new post and slowly reducing my heart rate. I HATE that! 🙂 Hopefully no-one saw it appear and disappear from their readers! From now on the first thing I do on a new post is schedule it for next week. I’m not in a hurry. Sorry, I’ve digressed but I had to get that out! 🙂
        Patience? Confidence? Combination perhaps?

      • Richard, if this happens again, you can revert it back to a draft instead of trashing! 🙂

        Also, you’ll have a little laugh if you read this sentence again – ” Although I’m a bit of a pedantic bastard with spelling an grammar. ” 😉

    • Oh yes, I do wish WordPress would have an ‘Are you sure?’ question when you hit Publish. I’m always worried that I’m going to accidentally hit Publish instead of Preview, which I know a lot of people have done. I see your post sitting in my inbox actually, so now that you’ve said, I won’t read it in the email but will go to your site to read the proper final version!

  6. I can totally relate to this. Totally! Even the parts about the wall painting and sewing. All those steps and pieces and parts! Eeeek! I will say that a beginning nod to outlining has helped me. It’s like a baby step, but I can feel myself grudgingly admitting that it’s working. Sigh. It’s like having to become a grown-up.

  7. As with life, I think writing is a continual learning process. The pantser must always be impatient, and the planner methodical. I think we all have some of both in us. Even as we “pants” we are planning though it is short term. I’ll have this character save that one’s bacon and later when this one is in a bind I can bring that guy back and…”

    I’m a pantser working on an outline for nano this year, so it’s ALL new to me right now! LOL Great post Vanessa, are there any more articles in the “pants” series? (she says with a big grin)

    • Good point about the short-term planning, LimeBirdNeeks. Unfortunately, It’s like it the short-term planning goes into a “temp” folder in my brain as I’m writing, but then as soon as I go to bed it all gets wiped… Next day, I wake up and start pantsing in a completely different direction.

      Anyone else get the same?

      • WTH is wrong with me today? “It’s like it the…”?? *grumble grumble mutter*

      • I know what you mean lords. Even when I do a bit of planning, I don’t really believe myself, I feel like I’m just doing it so that I can pretend to be planning, but I’m never sure whether I’ll actually stick to it.

        In response to your earlier comment about wishing you could edit comments – I’m in two minds about that, a blog belongs to the blogger, and I therefore think that the blogger is the only one who should really have editorial control of any sort. If the blogger is wishing to carefully oversee all the comments, particularly if the issue being discussed was controversial, it could get tricky if the commenters were able to go back in and change things after they had posted them, you know? On the other hand, I recognise the frustration myself of spotting typos or badly written things in a comment, and wishing I could go back and alter it!

      • I agree completely, my memory gets wiped if I turn around too fast, so I know exactly what you mean!

    • Well yes, even our planning is pantsed! I was working on my NaNo outlining yesterday evening, and wondering how much I’ll stick to it. As for any more in the series, well I’m not enough of a planner to have decided that yet!

  8. I’m an impatient writer, too, probably in between a pantser and a planner. I do some outlining, but I get so excited to write certain bits that I write as I go along, too. And even with a finished outline, when I start writing I basically complete all the outlined parts I’m excited about and can already see in my head; then I have to go back and fill in all the rest.

    • Yes, I think excitement is what drives me, I get excited about an idea and want to get on with it! Planning might fuel my excitement a bit but it doesn’t satisfy it, so I want to quickly move on from that and start writing!

  9. This is thought provoking because I pants to start off with but I wouldn’t say I am particularly an impatient person. I think we become more patient as we get older, I’m half a century and am much more patient than I was in my thirties. So I really don’t know what to think on this one. Great post though.

  10. I don’t know that I’m always a “pantser” but I often just sit and start writing without a clear plan. I go where the writing takes me. Those are the best writing sessions because I feel like the words and ideas just flow so naturally–nothing feels forced or contrived. I know that I can stop whenever I want to, but rarely do I even take a bathroom or eating break.

    It’s not about impatience, it’s about going with the flow or not resisting the creative urge. It’s about freedom and trust.

  11. I call planning “revision.” Perhaps if I were a mystery writer, I would see the need for a “plan” from the get go, but as it is, I pants it and then make it all look as if it were part of some cosmic plan through revision. Perhaps I see things this way because I’m borderline ADD and fear dying before I accomplish my goals.

  12. I am a pantser and impatient, but I never thought of the possible link before. You may be onto something…. 🙂 And all pantsers should remember that some fairly well-known authors are, too. Obviously Stephen King jumps to mind (with his distrust of full outlining spelled out in On Writing).

    One place we need to curb our impatience, though, is with querying or indie-publishing. We must edit, get critiques, and edit again (and again) to ensure our work is really ready for the big stage.

  13. Impatient, yes. I hate waiting in lines for anything, this is the reason I always do my grocery shopping on Saturday mornings at 7am–right when they open. I am in and out and home in 45 minutes. I think tasks like painting and sewing are wonderful examples! For me, it is because there are too many steps involved.

    That’s why of all the housechores, laundry is my least favorite. Because you have to carry the load to the washer, separate the colors from the whites, check pockets, pretreat stains, load the washer, add detergent et al — then you still have to deal with drying and folding and putting the dang clothes away! Give me a vaccuum cleaner any day of the week.

    As far as writing, though, I don’t know if I’m impatient with getting a story down. It’s more about being overzealous for me. I get so excited and pumped up that I just dive right in and want to do nothing but swim in the story. This is where the pantsing comes in quite handy. But I really am going to try to plan my NaNo this year. We’ll see how it flies.

    • I usually do my grocery shopping online – I’m not sure that the US supermarkets are as geared up for that as we are over here in the UK? They certainly weren’t a while ago. I love it!

      Laundry is a good example yes, and when you have kids it’s never ending isn’t it, a constant cycle.

      Don’t you think that overzealous is just a fancy word for impatient? 😉

  14. I’m definitely getting more impatient as I get older and when it comes to writing I’ve been prone to diving in before I’m fully ready. In the past this has left me floundering around the three-quarter mark of a Nano sprint, cursing my assumption that ideas would occur along the way. I realise now that I need a pretty meticulous plan for the whole story.

    Using Scrivener has been a great way to force me to write detailed notes for each chapter and even each scene. I’m now trying to write enough notes to allow me to ‘see’ each scene in its entirety before starting to write that particular scene, only leaving descriptive details and dialogue for the actual draft. It’s still early days but I think I’m edging closer to a system that works for me…

    • Several people have mentioned this Scrivener. I’m going to check it out this afternoon. I like the idea of planning an outline for scenes so you can just fill in the details and dialogue when writing – I guess you’d end up with a ‘painting by numbers’ first draft, meaning you’re much less likely to stray from the original concept. I think I need to work on my discipline before I can get close to something like that!

    • Thanks for your comment Tim. Yes, for NaNo I’ve actually planned out my chapters, not in any great detail, but just one sentence for each chapter, just so that I know what I need to do to move the story along in each chapter. I hope it works!

  15. I believe I am an impatient plotter. I take pages and pages of copious notes before I start writing the book and during the writing process. Then I look at my big mess of notes and wish they could write themselves! Eventually they will transform themselves into a lush and vivid story…
    I’m doing NaNo as well – last year’s was a ton of fun! Best of luck!

  16. I’m an impatient person — but that’s why I do like to have a plan in place before I write. When I don’t, I tend to flounder around at the keyboard producing little of value.

    That said, I don’t do backstories. I don’t have the patience for ‘em. Once I tried doing the backstory thing but it felt like a giant waste of time; I felt like I was procrastinating.

  17. You have to do you the best you can. If that means no planning and it works, that’s great. I think planning might feel like procrastinating to a pantser and that’s never good. 🙂

    • I’m not sure that no planning does work for me really, but I usually find it hard to get inspired until I properly start writing. Hopefully I’ll find a good balance that works for me one day!

  18. Reminds me of prep work before painting. All that scrubbing of walls, sanding, filling in holes, undercoat, middle coat, primer….Oh just get to the fun part…the colour. Why can’t I skip all the things that actually work and just fly by the seat of my pants? I’ll be cheering for you in November.

  19. I agree with some points mentioned in Jessica and Lornas’s replies. If you really think abou it, e.g. pausing for a minute or two while you’re in the flow, you might realise that while you think it is pantser writing, it’s not. Your brain knows where it is going, and you do too. If not, when you read it back, it would more than likely be a mess, throwing up more questions than ever. When I write without planning, other threads and ideas are born. It’s like wandering around the supmarket (another analogy for you!) and deciding there and then what to have for dinner and going round to get those ingredients to make it. As you go up and down the aisles, a side dish or fabulous pudding might cme to you. I don’t think you always have to be conscious of it, but in this way, I don’t think pantsing has anything to do with impatience. It’s just another method.

    Good luck to one and all doing NaNo!

    • Thanks for your comments Laura. The supermarket analogy is a really good one. I do that a lot actually, I shop without a shopping list, but then once I’m shopping I make decisions about certain things I want to cook, and then start making little mental lists about what I’ll need for those dishes. That is very similar to what I think of as pantsing in writing.

  20. I find I have a harder time with stories if I do plan them. For NaNo this year I have no idea what I’m going to write about at all, because if I think too much about it my story will just die the second I start to try to write it down. I’m not a big fan of planning or outlining or any of that. I’d rather just bust it all out as I go and then go back and fix whatever might need fixing.

    • I’m usually like that, but I’m just worried that if I get stuck during NaNo, I won’t be able to recover from it, so I really think I need a bit of direction for this, even if I end up going off-road!

      • Yeah I can see how that would be a good time to plan – in case of a Nano emergency! The first year I did NaNo I honeslty had no idea what I was doing until about 5 days in. Then I told my husband I felt like writing fantasy but didn’t know what – he talked with me about an hour and had me build a world with them and from then it was like blamo everything just sort of came to me. Then last year I had this big elaborate plan and I got stuck fast and couldn’t seem to get unstuck no matter what I tried. Even changing what POV, writing style from normal 3rd person to a journal-type style, I just couldn’t get it out. So I’m trying hard now not to think about it hoping I did so well the first year by not having a clue going into it.

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