Of mice and men | SOUTH COAST COLUMN

Confucius said those who do not plan will find trouble at their door.

Accepting a writing commission with optimism, I planned in detail to make the book happen, and cleared time for creativity, rather than adding to existing busyness. With assurance I drew up a timetable that balanced daily living, exercise and time for friends alongside a regular writing routine.

Then trouble found my door anyway and shredded best laid plans. My husband got the flu; the gardener couldn’t come; friends fell seriously ill and other commitments continued. Relentless winter drained my limited energy as I panicked over the questions: to get up much earlier or write until late at night, to live like a hermit or abandon the project? None were options I could sustain.

Make another plan when I’d so painstakingly devised the first? In a fleeting moment of lesser despair, I asked myself if it could be salvaged. Although I’d fallen behind, it was over-dramatic to abandon the venture. Within a disrupted month I’d still done interviews, acquired research, drafted two chapters and prepared an overall mud map for the book.

Rather than berating myself, I affirmed my recent choices to take time out, fulfill duties, and be with friends. I’ve adjusted the plan to more realistic timelines, although it still demands steady work. I remind myself constantly of previously honed skills to keep on task, amid distractions and self-doubt. I won’t give up this time either.

Those who’ve planned careers, houses or gardens, created quilts, prepared exhibitions or staged productions, have experienced setbacks, twists and turns when pursuing goals. Every day, most of us face the need to modify strategies on an ongoing basis. Plans that survive, as Darwin said of the species, are those that are responsive to change.

Lorraine McLoughlin is an author with community ties to the Fleurieu Coast.