What You Can Do When the World Is Plotting Against You

Today’s guest post is by David Villalva:

Hair was never a good look for me.

Photographic evidence recently surfaced when I showed my kids a high school yearbook image. My daughter giggled as my son proclaimed, “Maybe you do look better bald.” While that may be true, I still went into shock when I began losing my hair at nineteen years old.

Hair loss was not part of the plan. So I obsessed about how it would impact my life. Work? Goals? Relationships? I mean, I was never a ladies’ man but . . . 

I decided to take action.

First, I planned to save hairs by shampooing less often. And no more styling gel. Then I grew it out to look thicker. Next, I wore a hat to conceal it.

I eventually asked my parents for Rogaine as a birthday gift (because I was too self-conscious to buy it myself). Once I received the gift, its packaging claimed to strictly help the bald spot on heads. Wait, I was losing it everywhere!

Boo genetics.

Within days, I used the receipt to get a refund. There was no saving my hair. It was going down the drain too quickly. My life was not going according to plan.

Our Many Plans

Ever feel like the world’s conspiring against you? Think about your writing dreams.

We make big plans for our stories. We dream of releasing something into the world that entertains and inspires. We envision these stories connecting with people in special ways.

These plans motivate us to daydream, create, write and rewrite… but our plans are often disrupted by the world.

Like what happened when my first story coach, who offered me a refund, said, “I can’t coach what I can’t comprehend.”

Or when I realized my current novel’s villain lacked depth.

Or when a best-selling novelist likened my platform to a barker outside a circus tent preparing to scam naïve authors.

Or when the sudden death of a loved one paralyzed my writing life.

Life Happens—and It Can Be Messy

If you’re anything like me than you’ve already decided how everything should happen. You’ve written the story of your life inside your head. You’ve foreseen how your plans are supposed to unfold.

The predicament is that your plans take place in the world. And while the world’s been known to be fair, more often it’s chaotic and messy.

That means plans unravel. Hiccups interrupt. Tragedy strikes. When your plans go wrong, it’s easy to think the world’s trying to ruin your life or break your heart.

The world’s not plotting against you though. Your plans are just taking place in an unpredictable environment where you’re not in control. The dark truth is the world may not care about you one way or another. It may be completely neutral to you.

That’s not an easy idea to consider when we’re constantly seeking significance in the world. 

An Education via Chaos

You can’t make plans for the world, but you can expect the world to transform your plans.

So I suggest you process setbacks with an openness to discovery. Because misfortune may offer you the chance to become more than your broken plans.

Setbacks can create opportunities for growth and development. Obstacles have the ability to teach. They can help you find lessons in the midst of mayhem.

Like I said before, hair was never a good look for me.

My first story coach taught me the high stakes of becoming a lucid storyteller. The realization that my villain was a weak beast propelled me to analyze how to create a remarkable one. As for the criticism of the best-selling author: I solidified my intentions. Others will not define me.

The death of a loved one? That’s for another day. I’m still processing it. But as of today, I know it wasn’t until I lost my father that I began to actualize what he’d been teaching me for years.

I challenge you to discover something about yourself when the world blindsides your plans. And recognize the world can present circumstances that make it possible to become more.

Maybe it’s improving your writing. Or strengthening your confidence. Or the painful acknowledgement that you can’t control everything. 

Story Evolution

You must permit yourself to be transformed when the world affects your plans. Because if you refuse the opportunities that emerge from the world’s turning points, you may miss out on a lifetime of growth.

Hair loss cannot forever breed anxiety. Criticism mustn’t kill creativity. Death shouldn’t suppress the living.

I know it’s always easy to profess insight in hindsight. But maybe we can write a new story together, literally and figuratively—one that evolves from every challenge we overcome.

David Villalva head shotDavid Villalva supports structured novelists by sharing visual guides and articles on the craft of storytelling. His free visual ebook, The Storytelling Blueprint, illustrates the plot structure used in best-selling novels. Get it free here!

Feature Photo Credit: cellar_door_films via Compfight cc

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  1. I need to remember this post, because I make a lot of plans and timelines. They tend to work out because I make them, through force and hard work, and in spite of bouts of depression. It’s only a matter of time before some major disruption derails the career express, and I can already tell that it won’t be pretty. Your way of seeing the bigger picture might help me see that one can’t always foresee what will come of a given situation until later, and that the way forward may start off in a different direction sometimes. Also, for my part, I think you look pretty sharp in that picture.

    1. Hey EJ. I love your outlook. And you already seem to have a solid foundation prepared for when the world spins you. We need to keep supporting each other because it’s too easy to stay spun. Thanks all around!

      1. I don’t know if it’s because I simply avoid communities where this isn’t the norm, but in all the places I frequent, I see so much support, understanding and empathy, it makes me realize this really is the best time in history to be a writer. When have we ever had so many voices reminding us that yes, what you’re feeling is normal, and it doesn’t mean you’re not a real writer? Amen to your post, brother.

  2. David, thank you for sharing your experiences with us. It gave me a much-needed boost on this Monday morning, and I deeply appreciate that. Have a wonderful week!

    1. Hello Ekta. I’m grateful this article helped jumpstart your day. Let’s both commit to looking to something or somewhere every morning move forward so we can continue to give ourselves these much-needed boosts. Deal? And thanks!

  3. David, reading your post today was like reading a chapter in my own life. Events that demanded my attention, and yes, the death of several loved ones in a very short amount of time (including my father, too), have all but shut off my creativity. Just now, I am trying to tap back into that well and spend some time with my novel. It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Thank you for sharing your own journey.

    1. Hello Cindy. Oh my goodness, you’ve been challenged with so much. But I must tell you that you sound pretty strong right now. Straight up, I appreciate you being so open and honest in your comment. No doubt it’s hard to share but you did it like a champ. And I mean it when I write it’s up to us to try and write this new story together. THANK YOU for sharing your story.

  4. I loved this post. I think all the plans you make, especially long-term ones, need to be loose, and that adaptability is key to survival and thrival (I think I made up that word) in this life. I’m going through some big life changes right now and instead of berating myself for not getting in as many solid writing hours as I want, I’m thinking of ways I can incorporate these experiences into future writing. Great post!

    1. Hey Mary. I love what you’re saying here (using old school words and brand new ones!).

      Wow, I also love what you’re touching on… basically, we all need to permit ourselves room to be imperfect (without head games and guilt).

      Keep writing, today OR tomorrow!


  5. David, I am married to a man who had your exact haircut and I after 28 years I still think he is the greatest gift in my life!

    Just as you say, sometimes it seems the world conspires against us, when really it’s just offering us more frogs to kiss…hmmm. Okay then, let me try it like this: people who succeed in anything learn to build their successes on the backs of their failures. At least that’s what’s been true for me.

    Love your posts. I always recognize myself in them and your writing makes me smile…in a good way! Thanks.

    1. Hey Stephanie. Great to see you here!

      And HA, I love and agree with both of your examples.

      Also, you know hair style when you see it…

      Really though, thanks for the kind words because your compliment resonates all around. I feel like I’m fulfilling my purpose when I know my words connect with you and the others here in the comments. (And all writers want to connect with their readers)

      Straight up, thanks to you and everyone here who gets me.

  6. Something that struck me about the post is how well it an be used to apply to your own characters. More likely than not, life isn’t going the way they planned in one way or another. If you can keep that perspective while writing from the character’s POV, you’re liable to get a bit more mileage out of your story. Just an observation really. The control I lack in my own life, I can get back by messing with theirs. 😉

    1. Hey Doug. I love it!

      You’re pointing out some great stuff. Your take is completely legit, and it’s a wonderfully accurate observation!

      Thanks so much for sharing your take and manipulating your characters with precision. 😉

  7. Thanks for sharing your personal writing experience, David. It can be exasperating when your plans don’t work out quite as you’d imagined, but your suggestion to remain open is key for writers, as closing off can also result in writing the same book over and over due to a narrowing of perspective. Maintaining a broad awareness and open mind is so important for writing good fiction.

  8. Hulloo, David!

    We’ve chatted elsewhere about my summer (and how all this stuff will impact my autumn.)

    Life is like walking the deck of a ship. Ignore the roll, and you’re overboard.

    Walk like a sailor, adapt to the roll, and while it’s not always pretty and not always fast, you stay topside and eventually get across the deck.

    I spent the first 40 years of my life demanding that the universe straighten up and fly right; I’m trying to live here, people!

    Once I accepted that in a disagreement with the universe there’s no winning, I started drinking walking like a sailor. I still take the occasional lump, but I always get across the deck.

    1. What’s up Joel. I’m so glad you dropped by. I love your unique view my friend. While I agree with your metaphors, I can’t even come up with a fun one to join any of yours! Thanks for swinging by.

  9. Thanks for your vulnerability in sharing. I needed the affirmation. Reminded of a quote by Hemingway that I used in a recent blog: “The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong in the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry.”
    And so we keep writing.

    1. Hey Janice. I appreciate you pointing out the vulnerability part. Actually, this article is the first time I’d ever written about my father who passed away last year (he’s my “Pop” in my world). Even now I’m sharing something that seems kind of crazy. But I believe that’s how we connect as writers and storytellers. We must share a piece of ourselves that even we do not want to face. And thanks for the quote, I’d never read that one before…

  10. Hey David,

    I know exactly what you mean about the hair loss bit. I’m bald myself. You have my deepest condolences concerning your father. As for writing, it’s been an interesting decade or so that got me to this point. For a while, I didn’t know what kind of job would hold my interest the way writing did/does. I’ve known that I wanted to be an action/adventure writer since that time, but I always struggled with my confidence when actually sitting down to write. For the longest, I’ve gone back and forth trying to decide whether to write novels or screenplays, because I want to make money in this craft. I remember when I started working with a writing tutor, I had this feeling that I was about to “strike it rich”, because I had someone who could direct me towards my writing goals. Little did I know that there is so much more to putting together a novel or screenplay. I sent in a treatment to a movie/TV representative company, and my tutor advised me to not be surprised if my idea would be passed over. To my surprise, she was 100% right. A few weeks after I sent the treatment in, the company advised me that they were not interested. Needless to say, my writing hopes were crushed, but such is the life of a writer. So now, here I am back at the beginning, working towards the goal of just seeing my ideas realized on paper. Thank you so much for this great article.

    1. Hey Anwar. Thanks so much for being so open here with your story.

      Ah, it’s not uncommon to have the dream of immediately striking it rich as an author. I had that long-term vision but mine involved writing brilliant stories from day one. Obviously, that view has evolved over time (as I know it has with you!).

      First, I no longer have writing dreams but writing goals (I see you used the word goal the second time around above, too). It will happen for us. Second, I’ve learned I must enjoy the process as I grind toward reaching that goal.

      Looks like we’re on the same path (writing a new story together).

      Thanks again my new co-writer…

  11. I’ve taken Mary Kate’s words to heart – I think I’m applying them in my life too:
    “…all the plans you make, especially long-term ones, need to be loose, and that adaptability is key to survival and thrival (I think I made up that word) in this life. I’m going through some big life changes right now and instead of berating myself for not getting in as many solid writing hours as I want, I’m thinking of ways I can incorporate these experiences into future writing.”
    Instead of bemoaning the fact that I’m in my 50’s and starting over like I’m 19, I’m making an effort to ‘bloom where planted’. This is in line with how I take Mary Kate’s comment. There is one chapter of my story (still unwritten) where the protagonist (who is in her early 20’s), is living in the midst of a senior population. It fits into my real life story right now to get a job, and I’m looking forward to earning an authentic voice (regarding senior’s views) by working amongst them. Getting a job after working for yourself the past decade could take you down a peg, but for a writer, it’s an open-door opportunity to gain insights and new material. Every writer values those – lol, I see it as a bonus to get paid while I’m learning and gleaning.

    1. Hey Laureli. Thanks for commenting umpteen days later here!

      No doubt you’re experiencing a unique season in your life. I can only imagine… that line is cliche… but cliches have purpose despite their frequency.

      So I want to thank you for being open to the rewrites. I want to thank you for being open to trunking the past.

      Few people have your attitude or the commitment to rewrite the story of their lives. Well done.

      Thank you all around for being a unique creative!

  12. It is very brave of you to include these personal details. When things go awry, the only way I can deal with my thoughts and feelings, (after the raw emotions), is to write it all down. Writing is my solace.

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