One of the axioms I use frequently in my day job (helping people collaborate to achieve their goals) is this:
“You can’t get there from here, but you can get here from there.”
What it suggests is that if you want the future to be a certain way, you have to picture yourself already there, and then work out how you got there from where you are now. Until you have that vision crystallised, until you can feel and smell and touch and taste your future…your path is foggy and directionless. Until you have anticipated the obstacles that lie between you and what you want, and have thought of a plan to overcome them, then you risk getting derailed at the first sign of trouble.
I fell off horses a lot when I was a child, because I was planning on being an olympic show-jumper one day. These days it’s a fabulous book deal I’m picturing in my future… OK, so I don’t have a crystal ball, and we all know the odds are slim, but trying is fun (if sometimes painful) and even if you don’t quite hit the exact goal you’d pictured*, I think you manage to get much further towards it than if you’d never built that beautiful future vision.
For me it’s the same with my writing. I almost always have to start by writing the end. I need to know and feel where I’m going with the story. It’s the feet touching moondust, looking back at a tiny earth. It’s the point to which everything leads. And I can’t get there from here. I have to get here from there.
Of course other writers do it completely differently. Many start at the very beginning and write in a linear way, seeing where it takes them.
Are you for visions, serendipity or a bit of both?
(*I did pretty well in riding competitions but never became an olympic show-jumper)