Airplane pilots in the 1930s who went up without instruments or a flight plan were said to fly by the seat of their pants. The term still means making it up as you go along, whether by choice or because you have no idea what you’re doing. Some love the freedom and unpredictability. Others prefer every detail mapped out in advance.
Which describes you? Do you prepare a shopping list or wait to see what catches your eye? Make motel reservations before a car trip or decide daily where to stop for the night? Among authors of fiction, “plotters” outline their story before drafting the first paragraph, while “pantsers” write by the seat of their pants.
Plotting and pantsing aren’t a dichotomy but poles of a continuum. Pilots today make continual midcourse corrections to keep their planes aimed toward the destination. I begin a day or project with a plan. Then I hold to the details lightly, adjusting along the way.
I'm a historian who writes novels and literary nonfiction. My home base is Madison, Wisconsin.