I think of the definition of "potential" in terms of how is the term is used in physics. For those who are curious, here's the definition of "potential" in the scientific realm, courtesty of The Free Dictionary:
1. existing and ready for action, but not active.
2. the work per unit charge necessary to move a charged body in an electric field from a reference point to another point, measured in volts.
Focusing on the first definition (which is a little easier to understand), you could consider "potential" energy in a mechanical system as exisiting in harmony with "kinetic" energy... They are two sides of the same coin. For (a simple) example, imagine holding a ball out at arm's length: The ball has "potential" energy, but no "kinetic" (i.e., in motion) energy (yet). All that's needed to begin the process of changing potential to kinetic is for you to release the ball. As the ball falls, the balance of energy shifts--point by point in the journey from your hand to the floor--from potential energy (PE) to kinetic energy (KE). [Note: After the "floor bounce," the energy balance shifts again as the ball rises in the air, slowing down--kinetic energy shifts back to potential.]
And isn't that PE/KE dicotomy just like life? There are folks who, but nature, tend to hover on the "potential" side of the equation ... afraid to jump, afraid to let go, afraid to "take a chance." Sometimes it requires another action to get things moving: a release... or sometimes it's a cosmic kick-in-the-pants. For writing, I can imagine this translates to someone who plots out a book ahead of time, so they can see the road ahead.
On the other side of the equation, are those folks who are in "constant motion": Everything is kinetic: Snap decisions made at the "gut level, always restless and moving... gotta be "doing" rather than sitting (mentally or physically) still and motionless. In writing, I see those who are "kinetically inclined" to be the sorts to dash ahead, outline be damned... racing down the road of possibilities, creating plot and character turns, twists, developments while "in the flow" of writing.
In writing and in life, of course, you seldom find a person who is completely in the realm of potential energy (PE) or entirely in the kinetc energy (KE) arena. Like "most" systems, folks are generally a combination of both. Still, according to my observations (hardly scientific), most folks seem more comfortable on one side of the equation vs the other.
What are you when you are in your "natural state?" Are you:
- PE > KE?... or...
- KE > PE? ...or...
- PE = KE?