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Relax, Writer!


Poor Bodhidharma is really getting a workout.


I have a certain amount of trouble relaxing. Burning some nice incense is one of many ways I attempt to deal with that; as you can see, my incense burning dish really gets a workout.


It’s more than a problem relaxing. It’s a manifestation of my inner perfectionist. I have seen other writers mention their own perfectionism, and it usually relates to editing and re-editing their written work into oblivion, and them being afraid to let it out into the world, terrified that there will be an error they’ve missed, or an imperfect expression.


That’s a concern that I share, though not strongly. Of course I worry that I’m sending a story out to an editor or into self-published distribution with a glaring mistake, a gaping plot hole, a patch of ludicrously overwrought prose, or something similarly embarrassing. But it’s not a huge worry for me. I can hit the ‘send’ or ‘publish’ button without losing sleep.


For me, it’s about feeling that I’m not doing enough. When I have a great writing week and produce a ton of good work, I end up thinking about how much more I could have produced if I had somehow made more time for writing. When I have a crappy week, I feel like I’m Atlas and I’ve just dropped the world on my toe, and it has promptly rolled away threatening to flatten a bus full of nuns or something. It’s just terrible.


And it’s counterproductive. My gawd, it’s counterproductive. I’ve lost sleep over the perception of lost writing production or lost brainstorming time (and therefore lost ideas), then spent the next day feeling crappy and sluggish because I haven’t had enough sleep, which means that I produce little or nothing that day, which means that I feel even worse about my now two-day-old string of lousy production, which means…


Vicious circle.


Worrying about how much more I could do leads to doing less. It’s really very simple.


It’s another thing altogether to remember this when I’m feeling like I’m not doing enough. But I keep reminding myself, and I get a little better –a little, tiny bit better– as time passes.


I figure by the time I’m 150 I should have this whole ‘relaxing properly’ thing down pat.


Right Down The Toilet

So, the toilet ate my writing time tonight.

Every day I foolishly think of all of the hours and hours that are available to me for writing, and I expect to take advantage of several of them.   But things intervene.  Things like changing diapers (baby butts do NOT respond well to being left wet and need to be dealt with promptly), cooking meals, doing minor car repairs, shopping, and so on.

Today was special, though.  You see, the day before yesterday, the toilet stopped working.  By which I mean it started shooting water out from under one side when flushed.   NOT a situation you can ignore.  Not only is a wet floor no fun, but when it’s a toilet that’s involved it’s, shall we say, less than sanitary.

This was complicated by the fact that our small and humble home has only one bathroom.  So yesterday was a bit trying, but everyone was a good sport and put up with the temporary inconvenience.  A neighbor who knows a bit about plumbing stuff (as I think of it) was going to help us out today and get our facilities back in working order.  So today we went out, ran some errands in places that conveniently had working toilets for us to take advantage of, and…

…and of course the neighbor was delayed, detained, and missing in action.  I’m not pointing fingers; I don’t doubt that what came up was important.  Our neighbor likes us and isn’t the kind of person who would just blow us off for nothing.

But as the evening wore on, I realized I had one of two choices: wait, or try to learn how to fix a toilet on the fly.

So being a logical sort of person, I decided to rip that sucker out of the floor and try to figure it out as I went.  Usually this sort of thing ends badly.  But I figured, what do I have to lose?

After figuring out that the problem is a floor that has subsided a bit, I realized that the real, long-term fix will be to replace the floor.  But it has not subsided dangerously, so the short-term fix that should hold it for a few weeks until a real expert can help us fix this for the long term:

I put down a new wax seal, set a couple of wooden paint stirrers under one side as shims to level it, screwed that sucker down to the floor, and with great apprehension that I was about to cause a flood of both water and disappointment, tested it.

Wonder of wonder, it works with no leaks and is stable and firmly attached to the floor.

I know those shims aren’t forever.  You don’t put wood down where it’s going to be damp from time to time and expect long life.  But I have successfully MacGuyvered something that I knew nothing about.  It’s nice to know this lump of gray matter I use for writing is good for figuring out a mechanical problem once in a while.

Even if it means I got diddly done for writing today.