Why I Hate to Plan

There’s something wonderful about a blank screen or a blank piece of paper. Before you put one word down anything is possible. You relax a little bit, your mind racing through all the pithy and intelligent thoughts that you’ve had since you last sat down to blog. This time you are going to write something amazing.

Amazing, that is until the first word hits the screen. Then you’ve committed to something, and the more words you add, the less amazing it sounds, the more mundane. Do you go forward, or do you scrap it all and start over? What if you can’t get the words on the page to match the thoughts in your head? When do you know it’s time to give up?

For some reason recently the blogosphere has been full of variations on the same meme—know your limitations. Writers in particular are notorious for talking ourselves out of success—“Not everyone can be a bestseller.” “Most people don’t make a living writing.” Writers are true believers in the talent myth that I talked about recently.

But now, this meme was even showing up on the business blogs I follow—“Don’t Aim for the top unless you feel lucky,” says the Financial Times. Even the99percent, which has been a wonderful source of inspiration to me followed the same meme.

In this video Jonah Lehrer makes a good case for the importance of both creative insight and grit in bringing a project from start to finish. He makes a good case for explaining the diffences and how to recognize when you need one rather than the other. And he illustrates it with studies and data, heaven to a data geek like me. But, then oh noes, he gives us advice on knowing when to give up.

I’m sorry, knowing when to give up is NOT the second part of grit. It’s kind of the first part of fear. Or it’s a decision to prioritize something else. You see sometimes, we just like the idea of a thing more than we really want to attain the thing. There’s an old economics joke—Two economists are walking down the street and they walk by a Porsche. One of them turns to the other and says, “I’ve always wanted a Porsche.” The first replies, “Apparently not.”

I hate to plan, because planning for the thing, whatever it is, is so much less fun than imagining I’m already there. I love the feeling you get when the possibility is new and you haven’t thought of the obstacles, yet. At times like that, I just wish the inspiration would carry me through all on its own. Fr’instance, I wish I didn’t have to come up with a blogging schedule, keep a file of ideas to write about, read and research the current business memes floating on the web, put it all in my planner, and write daily no matter what. And if I don’t do it, it won’t be because I’ve finally realized that I’m not cut out for blogging, it will be because I’ve made an opportunity cost decision and chosen somewhere else to spend my time, or it will be because I’ve let my fear stop me.

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