Planning Unicorns

I’m a planner. This used to really worry me. Men aren’t planners; moms are. Men should be spontaneous so that they can make women fall in love with them by doing crazy things involving rain and late nights. And if men aren’t spontaneous, it’s a defect. They need a woman to teach them how to be spontaneous. So for a long time, I refused to embrace my planning.

Not everyone is a planner. But the thing about being a planner is that non-planners are always telling you how great being a non-planner is. There aren’t too many planers romanticizing the planned life. That’s mostly because they are too busy planning. If you’ve ever been a planner who wants to be a non-planner, then you know how messed up the whole situation is. You take on lots of responsibility because planners like responsibility. And then you get frustrated that all of your non-planner friends are living fine lives, and so you give up for a little bit. That’s when you get behind, and being behind is hellish for planners.

The world needs both planners and non-planners though. Both are heroic. Both are creative. And we need passionate people in both categories. I recently started thinking about things that I like. I came up with some interesting things. For example, I really love Mondays. I get energized by them. I like being around people who are learning, working, talking about real issues, and planning, and all of that starts happening on Mondays. I also love watching my Google Calendar fill up. It seems the busier I am, the happier I am. I like to be a part of things. And I like to be around people, but I like to be around people when they are doing something important. Being around people doing unimportant things makes me sad (I’m horrid at most parties). And all of this together made me realize that I am a planner.

That kind of changed everything. I’ve always been someone who has fancied that he’s a romantic. And I always thought that my pragmatic side was in direct conflict with this romanticism, and I like the romantic side better. He’s the one who writes poetry, and daydreams, and comes up with bold new ideas. But what I didn’t realize was that the romantic side was actually a part of my pragmatic being. I am romantic precisely because I’m pragmatic. My best creative thinking happens when my days are entirely structured, when I go from class to work to coffee with a friend, seamlessly. On those days, my pragmatic brain is synthesizing material in really cool ways, applying information from one event to the information from the next event.

I ran across this short film a few days ago. The filmmakers were given six lines of dialogue as part of a contest, and they had to fashion a short film around those six lines. The six lines kind of function as a story by themselves. (There’s a unicorn in one line). And so you feel like you know what the story is going to be about. But in reality, you have no idea. The filmmakers are actually able to be more creative because the audience is already expecting something, and they get something completely different. I think planning is a lot like this. Planning doesn’t stifle our creativity. It allows us to use creativity in new ways!

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