You Are Not Your Tools

A few months ago I was watching Brandon Sanderson talk about writing on Youtube. In one of the lectures, he discusses the idea of Architects and Gardener. It wasn’t a new concept for me. In the Nanowrimo community, the delineations is better known as Planner and Pantsers. Whatever names you assign the camps, the ideas remain relatively similar. There are writers who do better when they write a story from a plan or outline—those are the architects or Planners. Then, there are people who like to write by the seat of their pants, hence Pantsers. Or, in the slightly more romantic metaphor Sanderson uses, these writers could be seen as gardeners. They begin with merely a seed of an idea and grow that idea into the full story.

Much to my horror, I’m a Gardener.

It isn’t for lack of trying. Every writing notebook I own contains desperate diagrams and plot summaries. I never clean my desk without running across a collection of note-cards containing vague scene descriptions, now hopelessly tossed out of order. Not that they were in a useful order to begin with. The issue is that I’m not that kind of writer, I’m definitely more inclined toward a chaotic approach.

I was always of the opinion that when I found a way of writing that worked for me, that would be that. I’d become the perfect, productive writer I’d always wanted to be. But discovery my inclination toward Pantsing hasn’t been a magic bullet.

The truth is, my strongest writing usually employs a combination of the two methods. The other truth is that there are no magic bullets. Just tools that can help you get the work done.

Plotting is a tool. Writing by the seat of your pants, that’s a tool also. And you are not your tools. You’re a writer, you are the creator, the crafts-person. You have an obligation to use whatever tool will help you get the job done. So, if you’ve felt a little stuck lately, try using a different tool. If you don’t usually outline, try planning out your next few scenes. If you’re a meticulous planner, grab a random writing prompt and free write. See what comes up when you go off script. If you write with music, try writing in silence.

You never know what kind of helpful tools you’ve been missing out on.

Your friendly neighborhood storyteller,


Cover photo by Michał Grosicki

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