I sewed a purse lining this weekend. Actually, I sewed three purse linings, but one finally worked. The first one would have probably worked except I sewed the wrong sides together. Or maybe I cut it out sideways. I did something strange to the corners of the second one. The third one isn't really right, but it was close enough to put inside the purse and tack into place.
Basically I found instructions on the internet, read them carefully several times and then proceeded to do something entirely different from what they said to do. This is the story of my life. It's a pattern that I can't follow a pattern.
I look at something, see how it basically works and then fling myself into it blindly. It occurred to me as I was cursing myself that this was pretty much how I learned to write as well. I read most of a craft book, I get a sense of what they're saying and then suddenly I'm flying blind and solo.
In some ways, this has worked well for me. I entered my first chick lit novel in precisely one contest before it was published. I got the judges' comments after the book had already been bought (luckily). One of the judges wrote me this long sincere note. It was very sweet. She thought I had talent, but there was no way that a humorous book written in first person was ever going to sell. If I'd known that before I'd written it, or paid attention to the pattern, I might never have gotten my foot in the door in publishing.
But here's the ironic thing, I may not be able to follow a pattern, but I also can't start without one. Without those internet instructions on purse linings, I would have just sat there staring sadly into my plarn cocktail purse thinking about how much more awesome it would be with a lining. Ditto with books. I may not be able to fully follow a pattern, but I need some kind of blueprint before I start. I think it's why I enjoy writing genre fiction.
So how about you? Are you a pattern follower? A recipe person? Or do you just fling yourself out there?