What is Plan B?

Ambition Killed the Cat

Image by Paul Watson via Flickr

And, now you mention it, what exactly is Plan A?

There’s a little phrase trending amongst Amanda Palmer followers on Twitter at the moment: #FUCKPLANB – and it’s got me thinking. How do I know when to #fuckplanB when I’m not sure what plan A might be?

I graduated almost exactly a year ago now with an upper second class honours in English Literature and Creative Writing. Just about a year and a month ago, I started my first full time job at Royal Holloway. I (wo)manned the Music Library for it’s final few months of existence. This consisted of

  •  opening up every morning
  • issuing lots and lots of Short Loan books
  •  never having enough shelving to do
  •  quite often wanting to watch The Apprentice
  •  making tea for my colleagues
  • destroying CD jewel cases (which still make me queasy now) and locking our precious CDs into cases with magnetic locks
  • turning off all the lights, closing the curtains and locking the door behind me when I went to the pub in the evening.

It was rather a nice job. Come September, as my contract ended, I was offered a permanent job in Bedford Library as an Information Assistant (Digital Collections) – which I took. This is a nice area, I’m comfortable here, I know how the library works and – most importantly, I think – I am self-sufficient. Hence, I have fallen into library work.

But what’s the grand plan?

I have just begun applications to a couple of universities to start a distance learning MA/MSc in Library and Information Studies as and when an opening comes up. I am still idling googling for Trainee Librarians/Archivists – and sometimes still wishing I had taken a Biology degree and was working at the Sanger Institute or the Natural History Museum.

None of these things are a plan.

What I feel guilty about, reading these confident and exciting tweets, is that all these people are creative, have always wanted to be creative and have gone out of their way to be creative and thus, be happy. I’m not doing that. I haven’t written anything creative for – well, that’s a lie, I’m mid-poem in a couple of notebooks at the moment, but that’s not quite the same as making a proper go of it. I’m not sure if I’ve squshed my interest in writing with library work, or whether I just slowed down and a career in literature was never meant to be.

Plan A at the moment seems to be an exercise in preserving my independence and my sanity. I want to take this degree because I feel I should seize the opportunity now and make the most of what I have. I like library work, it’s interesting, it’s changing and it gives me the time to explore my other interests. I want to be a qualified, flexible librarian so that I can move with my interests and not be tied to one place. I understand that I might not feel this way forever, but I don’t think that should stop me in the meantime from giving this a go (although when you attach a monetary cost to this, I guess I’d better want to give it a bloody good go!) and making the most of what I can do.

Plan A is: getting the most out of my job, making sure I have time to pursue my interests, living with/near the people I care about.
Plan A manifests itself by: applying for a Master’s degree, staying employed at Royal Holloway, compromising on commutes between home, work and living-somewhere-else boyfriend – possibly by moving before September.

As I don’t really have a concrete Plan A/burning desire to become a poet, perhaps Plan B is just looking at other opportunities? If the perfect traineeship/immense promotion (unlikely) came along, I would  have to ask myself some serious questions but if enough of them point to fitting in with Plan A’s values, then why not?
Maybe that just means Plan B is non-existent because Plan A is flexible? In which case, fuck it. I’ll stick with working out Plan A.

So, do you have a Plan B? Have you ever had a Plan A? And did any of it go to plan at all? Help a still-dubious graduate!

6 thoughts on “What is Plan B?

  1. Well my Plan A was to graduate from college and get an awesome job. Plan B seems to be get married and have babies!

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having a stable job and writing on the side. Is it less creative if you’re not making money from it? Also, there’s nothing wrong with not having a plan. Being flexible makes life easier! If you take the best opportunities that come your way, perhaps you’ll feel less like you’re missing out. I am living proof that life doesn’t always go according to plan. Sometimes you just have to go with the flow and enjoy what you have in front of you.

    • Yeah, but you two will have a cute Plan B 😛

      Thanks. I’ve always felt kind of optimistic – as long as I do what I care about/find interesting I should be happy. And it turns out I’m fairly adaptable. Being flexible definitely makes life easier, at least I hope so. And maybe one day I’ll get back into writing. Do you still write, dear?

  2. I don’t think I’ve ever had a Plan A. Plan B is simply coasting…stick with the current job until it becomes completely unworkable and/or something better comes along.

  3. Well I’m the worst person for getting an idea, running wild with it and then wishing it would all go away… But writing has been a constant, so I would say my Plan A was/is find a job that isn’t too boring and pays well, and keep writing on the side (with the fingers of my left hand crossed) – plus a boy and baby at some point! Or maybe just a baby 😉

    So I would agree there’s no Plan B there. Unless Plan B is a life of disappointments!

    I can completely sympathise with your confusion though; I’m still wanting to take some sort of history / classics qualification, but it’s hard to justify when it won’t really be helpful to me careerwise at this point. Prior to taking English to degree level it had always been what I wanted to do, so I think perhaps that when things do go to plan they aren’t always terribly satisfiying in the end. I’m not sure Iike Plan A and Plan B at all, they’re too strict.

    Now I must say, could it be Amanda has a buring hatred for Plan B of ‘She Said’ fame??

    • I read something Neil Gaiman wrote recently which said that the least satisfying thing he’d ever done was get published, because it just wasn’t as satisfying as he thought it would be. Not that I’m trying to put you off! Just that I’m agreeing the reality isn’t always as perfect as we think, given that there is generally still more life to be living after your goals have been acheived.
      Would be nice to acheive some, though.

      And the irony of this post is that now I have ‘decided’ I’m going to go to library school, King’s have given me a place on this Medical Humanities MSc. And I don’t know what to do. This sucks. I had made a new library plan, but the love for books and medicine is coming back and I don’t want to sell out to my career. Having said that, I would like to have a career…

      Any suggestions welcome. I am feeling rather confused.

      • Kim, I hear you! It’s so tough knowing what to do… for me, I can see taking a further course (especially as it would still be arts-based) would be a bit frivolous. But will this books and medicine thing (which I still don’t really understand!) lead to something more than writing? Ie. some kind of medical job? Or will just be writing creatively with a medical slant afterwards? If the latter then it depends really whether you’re prepared to take the time and money away from your current ‘career’ to do it…? Would you want to return to libraries and would that then be difficult?

        So many questions 😉 Not that I’m trying to put you off, I’m just trying to be practical. Was it ever possible to do both (library work and medical study) part-time? And then you still have the option of library school afterwards. But maybe Medical Humanities does lead to a more specialised career?? How bamboozling.

        As for the writing, I can imagine Neil is quite right – though I would think that was right more for published writers who still have to have ‘proper’ jobs than for writers who have had their work made into films!! But I appreciate the notion; the more I learn about the state of publishing and the difficulty of being a new fiction writer, the more depressing it is. When I have more time in August (after my contract at OUP ends) I’m going to work on a proper website as I’ve mentioned over and over before. You’d better link to me!

        Let’s do something soon. I quite fancy a trip out.

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