Ken Goldstein’s advice: Plan all you want, but be nimble
I’m not at all a fan of Mike Tyson, but his most memorable and useful quote in my mind remains: “A plan is something you have, until you get hit.” I have a Hebrew carving in my home that says this a different way, “Man Plans and God Laughs.” One of my earliest mentors, the great writer David Milch, said it yet another way, “If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans.”
Yesterday at the Los Angeles Times Festival of books, magician and author Ricky Jay was asked by someone in the audience, “If I want to be a magician, what do I study in college?” Ricky couldn’t answer the question. A friend of his, a professor in the USC creative writing program was also in the audience, so Ricky kicked it to him — he couldn’t answer it either. Ricky wasn’t sure how to tell the student to prepare for life’s later adventures, because as he reflected, if you asked him at college age if he would be writing for the New Yorker and doing radio commentaries and writing books of historical anecdotes and also doing magic at this age, he never could have predicted it, maybe the magic. Patti Smith, who won the National Book Award for Just Kids, her memoir about artist Robert Mappelthorpe, was equally sage — she wondered why she had to be labeled an author or a musician or a poet or a painter, couldn’t a creative life be OK in simply exploring the creative process. “What would Da Vinci have answered?” she asked, “Oh come on, Leonardo, which are you, a painter, a sculptor, a scientist, you can’t really be all of those.” Did he know he would be all of those, and at a level that would last and command respect for so many generations to follow? What if he had simply stuck to The Plan? Could any of us predict where we are now at a level of detail that would paint an accurate picture? Then toss in the hits. I wonder.
To the point of a plan.....