Planned Spontaneity?

I have a love/hate relationship with spontaneity.

As a struggling freelance writer, not to mention an introvert, sometimes the formulated, lonesome existence of reading, researching, writing, pitching, corresponding, not getting paid enough becomes monotonous. Numbing. A little spontaneity can breathe life into a day, or a week, or a month. And if I am not careful, I don’t allow enough of it in. I admit I may not do enough spontaneous things. Nor am I fortunate enough to have friends who invite me to anything very often, so I have to be spontaneous on my own more often than not. Which isn’t easy, and as I said I often don’t do it.
Not that I could run off with a group of friends every time they came knocking. But to have at least the chance to say “not today” would do wonders for my sometime need for breaking routine. (To which I sometimes allow myself to be enslaved.) Last minute adventure and/or exploration can be a nice anecdote to drudgery and restlessness.
But then at times I think about a woman with whom I was in a play once. She told me that she was the type to “move to a whole new city one day with 20 dollars in my pocket, and all of my clothes in the car.
That is spontaneous. It is also for the birds.
To me, that is uprooting more so than spontaneity and I confess it is an extreme example. Yet there are more everyday examples of being spontaneous that also put me off of my lunch sometimes. Like when I make time to accept an invitation to a party someone is throwing, and an hour or so after I get there everyone decides they want to go into town and see a movie. Spontaneous, yes, but not appealing to me. In fact, it’s annoying. The plan was to have some food and play some games at John’s house. I situated my day around that. I prepared my introverted nature for that. Why are we not still doing that?
“You need to be more spontaneous,” some people will tell me in response to my reluctance in such scenarios. “You can’t plan your whole life out by the hour. Fly by the seat of your pants sometimes! It’s what makes life worth living.”

Yeah, except I spent half a tank of gas getting here, I’ve never been to the city you are talking about before, and I have a strong preference for seeing movies alone.
Moments like that would represent the times I hate spontaneity.
Look, I am not an Alpha. I don’t need to be in control of everything. Sometimes in fact I can enjoy letting someone else take the reigns while I go along for the ride. But I like to at least know what I am getting into, and if there is a better than average chance that everyone will be doing random stuff every other minute because they can’t stay with one thing for long enough to have a single drink, I will probably opt to stay home. Or otherwise prepare myself for a night of flying around constantly. (Which takes more out of me.)
Perhaps in the final analysis that is what bothers me about some versions of being spontaneous; there is no sense of committing to anything. It is one thing to not have every last second planned out in your day. It is entirely something else to feel the need to spin around and bounce off of everything like the Tasmanian Devil cartoon.
It isn’t surprising that I prefer what I call “introvert spontaneity”. That is to say having an outline of a plan to define the boundaries of an activity or a period of time and then allowing myself to be more random and carefree within same. For some that defeats the whole purpose, but for me it is like writing form poetry vs. free verse. Despite extraordinary pompous conclusions to the contrary, both methods can yield fine poems. Yet when you need to follow a certain rhyme scheme, meter, and structure, you have to become even more creative than you do when you can basically write whatever you want all over the page and call it poetry. The required structure helps you focus on what needs to be written, and giving as much life to the words within those borders as possible. Gives it a direction which, despite its freedom, free verse cannot provide. The same can be said for activities.
A road trip is an excellent example. You could just get in your car and drive until you run out of gas. I know people who do it that way, and they certainly find their share of adventure. To me, however, if I say that on Saturday if the weather is nice, I want to find a road trip destination no more than three hours away in any direction, and take two people with me, I can do all kinds of things. Plus I don’t have to worry about a billion uncertainties and decisions. I know going in I will not let myself go further away than three hours from home. So there are fewer worries, and more mental energy spent on actually enjoying the trip within the preset boundaries. And within those boundaries, already agreed to, there is room for all kind of spontaneous behavior.
As with most things, it isn’t all or nothing for me.
How spontaneous are you? How much do you plan ahead?
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2 Comments

  1. Nice one, Ty.

    As an introvert, spontaneity is jarring if it's done in large effect. I find that too. i can't just take off, as it were. Though sometimes I wish I could.

    Someone once told me that if you plan your entire life out, you can't really make room for other experiences that might happen that are equally valuable.

    In an attempt not to be a control freak (which I am, sadly), I try and say “yes” to things that have uncertain parameters. So we're all going out to dinner, but we don't know where exactly. That's okay. or we'll all meet by the waterfront and figure out what to do then. I try not to stress about things that won't have a major impact on my life.

    I figure nothing is worth taking on that stress.

  2. Good point, Mehnaz. The more we need to control, the more we have to stress about. I still need some of that, but am learning to let go of a bit of it at a time. =)

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