Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Life's Too Short

Well you knew I was overdue for a soap box day, so here it is.

As you know, I work a day job. It pays the bills. It's a necessary evil. My son says it best when he says, "you do what you have to do so you can do what you want to do." (smart kid, that son of mine.) So I work the day job, and it allows me to do what I want to do - write books. Sure, sometimes it encroaches on my writing time, but overall, I've learned to work with the ebbs and flows.

I have a very strong sense of order. It's a curse, and it's a blessing. It helps me to prioritize and while there were many years that I went into "tilt" mode because things weren't ordered to my satisfaction, I've learned to let go of a lot of those disorderly details, to understand which of those details is essential and which aren't. Which I could control, and which I couldn't. And folks, if it ain't yours to control, there's no point getting worked up about it.

Recently, I had to remind someone of this at the day job. The work comes in. First time, never been seen before. Someone picks it up and creates a template based on a company standard. The life cycle for this work means that after this point, it will go through numerous revisions and alterations before a final product is presented. For most of our work, we are able to begin with last year's edition and carry it forward, updating for this year's presentation. My experience tells me that this first cut at the template will be revised numerous times, rewritten, reorganized. So if the first cut isn't perfect, well that isn't a big deal to me, because it's going to be revamped to a point where it might not be recognizable by the second round of updates. There are some things I'm just not going to get my undies in a bunch about, and this is one of them. It's going to be horribly "unorderly" the next time we see it, so why waste the energy obsessing over it at the preliminary cut? The first time we put hands on a new project, the best we can do is offer the team something to work with. A starting point. We want to make it good, but perfect is a waste of time at the beginning stages.

Life is too short to obsess over things that will change. Dramatically. Some things you can fix, some things you can't. Know when it's important and when it isn't. Making a perfect first draft is an unreasonable expectation. There's no such animal.

Certainly I obsess over every word I write. Does it belong. Is the usage correct. Does it move the story forward. One of the secrets I've learned is knowing when the story is over. The first book I wrote I didn't know how to end. I wanted the story to go on forever. When do you know its done? (The simple answer to that is when you've resolved the plot. KNOW YOUR THEME.) Every story has a beginning, a middle and an end, all of which tie together. Every word, every paragraph, every chapter needs to move the story forward. If you stop and get stuck obsessing with minor details, it can completely derail you. Been there, done that. Writer's block? The key is to move forward. Don't let it get in your way. Write something. Anything. Move past it. You can always go back and cut out the icky parts later. When I get lost along the way, I stop. Take a step back. Look at the big picture. Does it really matter? Is it important to anyone but me? In a story, if the answer is no, you cut the offensive piece. In life, the same principle applies. If the answer is no, let it go and move on. Save your energy for where it really matters.

Life is too short to get stuck in unnecessary sub plots. Make a difference where it counts and don't beat people up (or yourself) for making a mistake on the first draft. You'll almost always get a second chance, and if you waste your time trying to swim in a puddle, you won't have any energy left when you get to the ocean.

{stepping off my soapbox now}


  1. This is a good rant, a necessary rant, and a good reminder for all of us in our daily life. Don't sweat the small stuff, especially if it's going to change anyway. You are wise like your son. he he - it must run in the family.

    1. He's a smart man, that son of mine. Thanks for ordering such nice days for us here in Packerland and north