And now, onto your regularly-scheduled (late) post. Don't look at me like that. My internet was out yesterday.
The biggest reason I'm a pantster is because my stories intimidate me. As Ira Glass has written, there's a gap between what's in your head and what's on the page. It's that gap that paralyzes me. I think of all my previous failures, and I fear I'm going to let this story down, too.
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I do think about the story, but a little bit at a time. I'm always thinking about the next cool scene I want to get to, not the ending, at least until I'm a few scenes from the ending. It helps keep me motivated, to know that the cool scene I want to write or the neat dialogue line I thought up will leave my head if I don't write it soon.
Sometimes, when I can't sleep or I'm bored, I'll play "what if?" with my story. I've come up with some of my most interesting plot twists on a long car trip, or while walking somewhere. If I come up with something good when I'm trying to sleep, though, that can backfire. Good idea or not, if I fall asleep without jotting it down, I'll forget, and then I'll be mad at myself.
That all makes it sound like my stories are sheer chaos, and they're not. My initial drafts are messy and I wind up cutting at least a third of the dialogue, but I am starting out with the core of a good story. That's what editing is for. And if you tell me you've met a writer who doesn't require editing, I'll call you a liar.
Instead of mapping out the whole story, I start writing, and I begin where the main character wants to begin. Sometimes that means I need to cut the first couple of chapters, but I'd rather write badly than not at all.
As much as I give myself permission to write badly just to get it out, I can't dwell on all of my mistakes as I'm writing. The inner editor has a purpose, but it needs to shut up long enough for the first draft to get out on the page. In order to shut mine up, I have to take the story as it comes, and know I'll edit later. Thinking about the whole great mess just frustrates me, saps my motivation, and makes me not want to write anymore.
I recognize that's not a problem for many writers, or that they're able to overcome it while still outlining their books. But, this is what works for me. If it works for you, great. Otherwise, you may consider some alternatives.