The Poetry Question

Discovering the Relevance of Words

QOTD- What’s Your Plan, Writers?

John+Mellencamp

“When did you realize that your life wasn’t going to turn out the way you thought it would?”

Often, when I’m out of ideas, I open the little folder on my desktop titled ‘unfinished’ and see if any good sentences jump out at me from the half-finished poems and drafted introductions to short stories that never really led to any sort of story. Sometimes, I’ll spot an idea or a well-written thought that fits into another piece and helps it move forward. Sometimes, I’ll just see something that makes me think.

The line above was the first line of an unfinished story about… something. I’m not sure what it was supposed to be about, which is probably why it was never finished. It was a line of dialogue uttered by a young woman to a young man as they huddled together and slowly froze to death. I think I meant it to be profound. I can’t be sure because I don’t remember writing it.

But it did get me thinking about expectations. I remember a conversation I had with a friend just after we graduated high school. We were talking about the future and all the amazing things we were going to accomplish. We were really enjoying ourselves since, at that age, the future is still exciting and hasn’t yet become terrifying. Oh, we had some ambitions. I think I claimed my first novel would be published by the time I was 25, which seemed totally plausible at the time. She would, by that time, have turned her modeling career into a fashion empire, and we would basically spend our time being the coolest people ever. It’s a memory that seems at once shamefully naive and totally adorable.

Nostalgia is the pain of remembering, but the pain is not entirely unpleasant. As Sir John Cougar Mellancamp* would say, it “hurts so good”. As we age, we grow, and that can be a painful process. Not only do we grow softer around the midsection but we grow more realistic in our goals. That novel remains the X on my treasure map, but time frame has had to change. And probably for the better. I don’t think I’d want to read the book a 25 year old me would have written. But, then again, I don’t even like reading my old drafts. As stated above, I usually only do so out of desperation, when writer’s block strikes.

As writers, we understand deadlines. Or at least we should. When I was 18, I set a deadline while trying to impress a girl and drinking warm beer in a park. I don’t think anyone would consider that legally binding, but it stuck with me because I broke it. Let’s see if I can’t recreate that experience for all of us.

What is your five year plan? Where will you be as a writer in 2018?

Once it’s written down, you’ll be able to look back fondly at how young and naive you were. Or, you’ll have something to stare at angrily while you reminisce on your failures and drink.

Either way, fun stuff.

*He was knighted, right?

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About Doran Simmons

I'm a writer and a camper and a keeper of fish. I was trained as a flight instructor and work day jobs and write nonsense for public consumption (hopefully).

4 comments on “QOTD- What’s Your Plan, Writers?

  1. kalabalu
    July 16, 2013

    I realize that my life is not going to be as I planned , with time..after the dead line has passed and I have not achieved my target..I know my life has lost in the race of time.

  2. kiwiskan
    July 16, 2013

    I’m taking that five year plan in small doses, but I want to get a book of poetry published, and another picture book as well. I related to your opening paragraph. I’ve got beginnings that I browse back through as well. And I may be racing time, but you never lose if you just keep running. The race is fun.

  3. The Running Son
    July 16, 2013

    I am 44. I have excised many demons, and worked out my ya-yas, as they say. 5 years, from the vantage of a 44 year old, is a serious block of time.

    And, like many in life, one by one I failed at my big plans, and learned that cynicism and idealism are worse than mortal enemies, and cynicism is easier to maintain if the fire inside is dying.

    On this July day, I am alive. More than at 25. I met the girl of my dreams, I am writing spontaneously, and have a precisely defined purpose and direction for my future…

    …up to about 2 years, max. 5 years? pfff just thinking about that puts me in vertigo. So, a book or 2 of poetry, some multimedia video/audio productions…and god willing, a wedding. Beyond that, the future becomes progressively foggier, and more interesting.

    Jim

  4. Doran Simmons
    July 17, 2013

    Agreed. Even as I was asking this question I knew it wasn’t one I could easily answer. I wrote something today, I hope to write something tomorrow. Beyond that, I honestly have no idea. But it’s useful to think about.

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