When I was very young and couldn’t get to sleep, or was bored, I would imagine that I had found a little house that was very shabby and very dirty. I resolved to clean it, and the only tool I ever imagined I needed was a washcloth and some water. But I felt that if I were just careful enough, diligent enough, I could by sheer intent bring the house back to itself.
I had this fantasy for many years. In fact, I’ve always approached a new challenge that interested me with that same attitude. Just go carefully, take your time, pay attention, and you’ll get there. No matter if you have the right tools, or the basic understanding of the task. Pay attention and you will figure it out. The key to this approach has always been the word ‘interest’. And there are a lot of things I really have no interest in. Like how a telephone works, or how to solve a calculus problem, or the granularity of computer programming.
I did, however, in the long-ago past, figure out how to fix a problem with an automatic typewriter that used a punched tape to produce multiple copies. The person responsible, and trained to use this machine, was out ill. I had completed my work for the day, and my supervisor sent me to see if by some chance I could figure out how to make it work. It took me awhile, but I did it. I can’t remember the details, but it required using a configuration that corrected the error on the tape and the problem was solved. I might have been a good typewriter repairperson. If I had the interest.
I don’t mind making mistakes, which can be good, but can also be pretty wasteful of time and materials. There have been many, many occasions when I’ve had to pull out rows of knitting, recut fabric, rip seams, and modify recipes. I can only sustain so much interest in instruction manuals before I get impatient and just jump in.
I like to rearrange things, too. Like furniture. Even rose bushes have been subjected to a hasty decision to dig them up and move them. Sometimes that worked, and sometimes it didn’t. My garden has been subjected to as much rearranging as my living room. In fact, if a room in my house gets too messy, the best way to solve that problem is to move the furniture.
Work-arounds work for me. And I am sure it is a deep psychological flaw that makes this true. But it is what it is. This last week I worked a puzzle from the inside out because I could NOT get the frame to go together. Most people put the frame together first. But it just wasn’t working and I knew once the middle was done, the frame had to fit.
Now I am writing a novel. And one of ‘characters’ in the story is actually an old Craftsman-style house that has been unused for decades. Finding ways to reconstruct it, refurbish it, and refurnish it, has been one of the pieces of the book that I’ve loved the most. A lot less work, too, than undertaking an actual house, with nothing but determination and a washcloth! Still – the will and the interest may just see me through to the end of my book.
I’ll keep you posted.