This seems a significantly appropo topic at the moment. I have nothing planned for this post, and, as the title suggests, I am pantsing my way through it. Pantsing my way through many creative projects has resulted in abject disaster at times. There are times, when I will wing it and on occasion, those times produce some real gems.
Unfortunately, none of those examples are coming to mind at the moment.
For those who are a bit confused about the phrase, I will explain. “Pantsing” is a slang term for “Flying by the seat of my pants.” No plan. No goal or objective. For writers, it means sitting at the keyboard and letting whatever thoughts flow through your fingertips hit the page. It’s not exactly the same thing as free-writing. Free writing tends towards stream of consciousness and pantsing is a process by which a narrative should unfold. I rarely pants my way through anything. Staring at a blank screen is a bit on the torturous side for me, so I usually take my time and decide what a project will be, who it will be for, the purpose and goals of that project and steps for achieving that project. It gives a frame work which lends itself to productivity. The process begins with a clarified vision of some thing and ends with that thing manifested into reality.
There is nothing so frustrating as staring at a blank screen, or blank canvas, or blank wall, yearning to express, but without the slightest idea of where to begin. This is often where process can be helpful. Process, in general, is good for creativity. It provides a context in which creativity can emerge. It offers small, step-by-step actions with results that can be anticipated reasonably well. There is a drawback, however.
Process for the sake of process can hinder creativity. The routine begins to feel more like drudgery than genuine creativity or authentic expression. In times like these, the spontaneity of pantsing can break one free of that feeling of drudgery. Pantsing – diving in and going for it- is a good way to short circuit the mental ruts that can develop as a result of being process oriented. It frees the creative brain from the constraints of the logical brain used during process and planning. The idea of pantsing your way through a creative endeavor is less about the product, and more about the raw act of creativity. Instead of writing a story it is about finding a story.
Now, if you’re like me, what results from these on-the-fly creative projects is not usually stellar in nature. It may come out lopsided or be too reminiscent of what is already out there, however, it is the opportunity to engage in raw creativity that is exploratory rather than purposeful. No one may be interested in an epic space opera entitled Ode to a Stick-Figure. And it may not be the best work you’ve ever done, but exploring raw creativity can inspire other projects, stretch and strengthen creative muscles, and even inform other endeavors which are percolating your mind.
Creativity is more than just paint on a canvas or words on a page. It’s a way of seeing, a way of thinking and a way of living. It sees the possibilities – the what ifs, the maybe-we-cans, and sometimes it thinks so far outside the box, the box can’t even be found any more. Pantsing has a place in creativity, and in creative living. Where and how big of a place is unique to each individual. It, like most other things in life, needs to be balanced against other creative approaches. There are going to be those out there who, unlike me, find they are incapable of creating any other way. To such individuals, I say go for it. For those who haven’t tried pantsing, I say give it a go! What have you got to lose?