Friday, June 27, 2014

The Great Wallpaper Adventure

Because houseguests are expected in two weeks--that's why/when you undertake a "reno" of the guest room that could have been done at any time in the previous six years. Well, "re-do" is more appropriate than "reno": no walls came down. But plenty of wallpaper did. And then paint went up on the walls (and dirt and crud came up from the carpet).

Turns out, you get lots of "thinking time" when your face is two inches from the wall for three full days. The main thing was a reminder of the 80/20 rule: The first 80 percent of the labor is completed in 20 percent of the time; the remaining 20 percent of the labor requires 80 percent of the time.

The first layer of wallpaper peels right off. Much of the underlayer comes off with a little more work. Here you're at 80% of the project but only 20% of the time. Getting all those ticky bits off (the last 20% of the removal) takes a water bottle sprayer, a scraper, and long-haul upper body strength (slow-twitch muscles rule).

Similarly, the first bit of "painting the wall" is relatively easy. Finding and adequately covering the places where the pink bleeds through, determining how/where/whether a second coat is needed and applying it--that kind of picky ticky work also takes a surprising amount of time.

Good writing can be similar in time: drafting is fine, but it creates something that's...just fine. It's the work you put in to get a product that's more than "just fine" that takes time. Time well spent.

The best part: having a finished product you can be proud of.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

I Will Not Be Cold

Thursday morning was cool, with precipitation ranging from mist to downpour. I wore layers to my yoga class, forgetting that truism of weather--being in a car is warmer than being outdoors, even when there's no sun. Plus, my body thermostat likes to jump around at times. Let's just say that all in all I was plenty warm on the drive in.

When I got to class, I dove for the spot in back row in front of the open window, thrilled that it (the spot, as well as the window) was still open. The teacher offered to close the window if I were cold, but I said, "Oh, no; I'm hot and like the breeze." She suggested I wear a blanket as a shawl for the beginning part of the class, while we do the sit/center-ourselves part, because I wouldn't be moving around. Fine.

So I was readying myself for class, blanket and all, and another woman in class said, "You're going to be so cold if she doesn't close that window."

I said, "Uh, no, I'm fine. In fact, I enjoy the open window. I'm warm."

"Oh, no, you'll be freezing."

I didn't say anything else, but I was pretty sure a. I wouldn't be cold and 2. if I were I would be able to speak up and/or close the window and iii. maybe this other woman was the one who was cold.

There followed a round-robin discussion among the other students and the teacher, with no one owning up to wanting the window closed, until finally a woman said, "Could it be partway closed?" and I thought hallelujah.

I was reminded of the incident again on Friday in relation to an ongoing frustration I have with my own fiction. I'm really good at getting people, er, characters, to sit around a table drinking coffee and saying what this story is about.

But in real life, people often don't "own" how they feel or what they want--and it's even more rare when they say it. Whether they're prevented by politeness or habit (or maybe it really is an intense desire to annoy me), they just don't. People often don't say what they really think, or want, or need. I'm repeating that because I forget, though I'm sure I do it myself, too.

That Goldilocks sure knew when something was too hot or too cold. Fortunately, the yoga class itself was worthy of Baby Bear: just right.
Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Facebook: Lessons in Connecting and in Enough

This year I'm learning about connecting, and I'm learning when enough is enough. And participating in the wacky world of Facebook has helped me learn a little of both.


1. On Facebook, I'm connected to
* people I don't really remember from high school,
* people I didn't know well in high school,
* people who are friends with my siblings,
* children of people who know my siblings,
* my parents' former students (and their children and grandchildren),
* people my parents once knew professionally,
* people I once knew well but am geographically distant from,
* people I never knew well but felt a connection to when we shared geography or interests,
* and various categories of people I've never met in real life (many of them writers).
* Oh, and people I call/ed friends back before Facebook.
* And acquaintances in real life.
Many of these kinds of connections are equivalent to walking down the hall in high school saying "hi" to people you vaguely know. Which is great. Plennnnty, in fact, much of the time.

2. Conversations on Facebook can be interesting, especially when people take the time to think about what they're saying and don't use someone's news feed like an instant message. But boy that LIKE button is also handy: it says "I see you over here saying something" quickly; a sort of "yep but gotta go" or "great; glad to hear it" equivalent. It's pretty easy to register the fact that people are having a political or religious discussion and tiptoe past. And I wouldn't survive elections if it weren't for the HIDE function.

3. People, however well you know them, respond with enthusiasm when your comment is about THEM and THEIR interest in a photo/video/quote/observation/status. Perhaps unsurprisingly, people are less interested when you post a photo of YOURSELF in your comment on the item they've shared--even if it's related. (NB this is also true in real life, which I keep forgetting. I keep thinking that people who say "what do you think?" really want to know.) People also enjoy POSITIVE comments, not comments that are dismissive--like "duh" or "ohhh-kay." Why even go to the trouble to share that? Go be cooler than thou on your own news feed.

Enough (is enough is enough...when?)

1. None of the really useful things I'm learning about connecting to people are ENOUGH reason to spend time on Facebook that I'd rather spend doing creative, productive, contemplative, or gustatory things.

2. Sometimes connection through Facebook really is ENOUGH connection with any particular individual--and sometimes a couple of check-ins on Facebook provide me with nearly ENOUGH human contact for an entire day (though it's hard to measure because my husband is also home writing or gloating being retired).

3. And sometimes virtual connections really AREN'T enough. So I also must remember to be with real people in real life, and remember #3 above. I'm getting better about scheduling ENOUGH of that sort of connection, but that's always a work in progress.

But enough about people and electronics. Time to go outdoors and connect with the mallards, snowshoe hares, ravens, blue jays, birches (achoo), balsams, and mud. I already know that none of them care what I think about anything!