I once directed my husband to my sister’s house.  We didn’t have her address and my husband had never been to her house.

“That looks familiar. Turn left here. Oh, I’m pretty sure we passed the subway, went right, then crossed through the light…”

We ended up on the south-west side of the city instead of the north-east side.

My husband, who by then should have known better than to listen to my directions—I turn right when I should turn left and vice versa—finally stopped at a pay phone. Remember those?! My sister gave him the street address and directions. With those in hand and without getting lost, he drove right to her house.

To this day, my husband still listens to my directions. Trust is such a wonderful thing. 🙂

I come by my lack of direction skills honestly. Every year, when my Dad took us on vacation, he drove through Calgary on his way to Penticton. Back then, there was only one route through the city. It only changed if there was construction and a detour.

And yet every year, my Dad got lost. We’d end up in one of the residential sections, until my Mom took navigational control and directed Dad back to the main highway and out of the city.

These days, when I want to go somewhere I’m unfamiliar with, I do the following:

1. Address in hand, I head for Google Maps.

2. Locate my destination, preplan my route, then study the surrounding streets in case I mess up.

3. Print off the map, highlight the route, and write down the instructions.

5. Quiz my guys. Any traffic circles? Oops, need to find an alternate route because traffic circles confuse me. According to my mom, they confused my dad, too. Overpasses, merging lanes, or anything else out of the norm? Check, check, check.

When it comes to writing, I need a road map, too. I’m a panster at heart. I love to sit down and bang out the story. But by the time I type THE END, I’ve taken so many detours, the story is lost in a muddle of side trips. Even worse, the story has no structure.

These days, I do some extra planning. I have the end in sight and a general map of the story to guide me. Before writing a scene, I preplan it, using colored sticky notes for the different characters. I can immediately recognize when I’ve taken a wrong turn and I can fix it before I end up writing a totally different book than the one I started to write.

Or before I end up writing garbage.

By the time I type THE END, I’m happy because the structure is solid and I know the edit stage is going to be manageable.

So do you know your left hand from your right hand? Are you directionally challenged like I am? Or can you navigate on the road as easily as you can navigate your way through your story?

(Originally posted at Women Unplugged.)
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