Stories must unfold. Plots don’t always work. I have to agree with Stephen King, one very accredited storyteller, on this. Here's how he explains plot in his book, On Writing:
I won't try to convince you that I've never plotted any more than I'd try to convince you that I've never told a lie, but I do both as infrequently as possible. I distrust plot for two reasons: first, because our lives are largely plotless, even when you add in all our reasonable precautions and careful planning; and second, because I believe plotting and the spontaneity of real creation aren't compatible.
It has taken me a very long time to get to the place where I can say that my yoga class has no plot. I used to show up to practice with pre-determined notions about how the teacher and the chosen asanas would alleviate my stress, my cramped foot, my tweaked back, my current flavor of crazy.
In fact, I'd sit at my desk writing out my day’s yoga plot before it had the chance to unfold, banking on it giving me what I knew I needed.
These days, I can sit down on my yoga mat and allow the story to unfold, and when it’s over I am either surprised or unsurprised by how I feel and what I’ve learned. It is always something. And no, I don’t always love it. Sometimes, I hate it, but I do my damnedest not to dictate what I think will happen. I’ve gotten pretty good at letting go of plot in my yoga and in my writing, but life remains the challenge.
Last week I was flying down the exit ramp of I-80, turning sharply onto the back road to my parents’ house, practically high on life. I had already written out my Thanksgiving plot—happy to be home, plenty of time to see my friends and their kids, some work to do, teaching a yoga class at the local gym. I had seven days at home, and I was certain how I would spend them and how they would make me feel.
Yeah, right. The universe must have been having a good laugh.
Nothing. Not one thing followed my Thanksgiving plot. An impromptu weekend at my aunt’s house cut into time I would have spent with my friends and tacked on another six hours of driving. My father lost it on me, temper tantrum-style, in a Barnes & Noble. A relationship unraveled. And I didn't get work done or teach the class.
I was so frustrated with what wasn’t that I ignored what was.
And what was wasn’t so bad either. There was a spontaneous Thanksgiving rugby game. I was able to visit my grandmother and Christmas shop with my mom and aunt. I had time to read a good book about writing, and time with cousins I don’t normally see this time of year.
And, perhaps, most importantly, I was given a chance to learn a lot about my attachment to plot, even if it was a lesson I thought I no longer needed.
Photo Credit: Shutterstock