Why We Need To Stop Labeling People As ‘Pantsers’

An off-the-cuff view of why I won’t steal your pants.

Written by Dicky Kitchen Jr

HERE YE HERE YE! The (sometimes) honorable Dicky Kitchen Jr will preside over the case against the label of ‘Pantser’ as a term for those who don’t plan every step before writing.

The verdict is guilty! The punishment is DEATH!!! (Death of the term, not you. You’re fine... probably).

The term is now stricken from the writing community and never to be used again!...

Not enough to convince you? Ok, let me try a little harder.

How is it we ever came to use this term to describe writers? The other side gets the term ‘planner’; a term seen with some level of dignity and intelligence. Clearly I was absent the day we all had a meeting and decided to call one side ‘planners’ and the other side ‘pantsers’. Had I of been present, I assure you I would have voted for another term and come up with a better alternative.

My issue with the term ‘pantser’ is simple. It’s the most inaccurate way to describe what I (and many others) really do.

Let me ask you something. Has a non-planner ever surprised you by coming up and yanking your pants down? Because that’s what I pictured when I heard the term ‘pantser’ for the first time and was horrified to learn that I am considered a member of that group.

Seriously, it sounds like a potential crime to be a ‘pantser’. It’s lacking the dignity and due respect often given to our colleagues in the other camp.

A ‘pantser’ is defined by the ability to sit down and start writing with little to no forethought and still create masterpieces of the imagination! That sounds more like a writing wizard than a pants thief. Surely there is a better term to use to describe us.

Ok, ok, maybe I’m being a bit generous with a couple of them. But there’s no denying that there has to be a better option than the current model.

Personally, I like the term ‘Free Writer’ best. It encompasses what I do much better than the current insult being used. When you hear the term ‘free writer’ you can picture a person sitting down and writing freely, with no structured layout. That is what my colleagues and I do.

We shouldn’t be shamed for our unique approach to writing. If anything, you should see our ability as the ultimate superpower for a writer. What is a free writer if not someone with an imagination not confined to rigid structure? Being able to create so freely shows the strength of our creativity. It shows that we are more intuitively capable of developing worlds and creating characters. We have the ability to experience a story’s plot and report it back to you, the reader, without page upon page of notes. We DO NOT steal your pants.

If you are a planner and going through your process, you are planning. Correct? So the same way of thinking should apply to us, right?

So, are we pantsing?

No, because by definition that is the act of pulling someone’s pants down without their consent, and we would never do that. As a rule, we always ask for permission before removing someone’s pants.

I think it’s beyond time for us to retire the term ‘pantser’. And by ‘retire’ I mean take it out in a field and bury it, never to be found again. The only other alternative is that we free writers start living up to our less-than-ideal label and go around pantsing all the planners out there.

So what’s it going to be? Are we changing the label, or do I have to start stealing pants?