"I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. He will put some things behind, will pass an invisible boundary; new, universal, and more liberal laws will begin to establish themselves around and within him; or the old laws be expanded, and interpreted in his favor in a more liberal sense, and he will live with the license of a higher order of beings. In proportion as he simplifies his life, the laws of the universe will appear less complex, and solitude will not be solitude, nor poverty poverty, nor weakness weakness. If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them." ~ Henry David Thoreau, Walden
Hopefully you have been too busy enjoying your Summer to notice I haven't published a blog post here at TFP in more than two months, which is the longest stretch of time without creative writing in all of my 7 years of blogging. I plan to return to a more robust publishing schedule by later this month.
The past two months actually begins two years ago when my wife and I decided to relocate our family and my investment advisory firm to Hilton Head Island, SC. Fortunately I'm self-employed and Hilton Head is only 100 miles from our previous home in the Charleston, SC area. Additionally, I have clients all over the US and my "local" clients still receive the same level of service as before the move. Therefore the relocation was enabled by these circumstances. But this in no way means the transition was easy!
For a quick summary, my wife and I prepared our house to sell in 2011, sold our house ourselves (no offense to my Realtor friends) and moved into a rental on the island almost exactly one year ago. To make a long story less long, we have lived in four houses in the past 12 months. That in itself explains a bit of preoccupation with things other than creative writing, to say the least!
Now back to where I've been for two months: I've been renovating our new home. Our budget did not quite cover all that we wanted to do to make this house a "dream home" so we needed to do a large amount of the renovation ourselves. This includes (but is not limited to) ripping out flooring, tearing down walls, painting, caulking, drilling, sweating, bruising, bleeding, making mistakes, swearing, getting frustrated and getting excited. I only semi-joke when I say that a new form of torture for terrorists should be to make them renovate a home!
Now for some of what I've learned:
- Routine is not mindless; it's brainless, which is good: I've said many times how routine can be negative because of its mindless aspect. However, I now retract that teaching. Routine is more brain than mind; it is a function of the brain automating an activity, which actually allows the mind more freedom to think creatively. For example, if you are removed from a familiar environment, one where you can find everything you need, such as a spoon, a light switch, a screwdriver, or your underwear, even if the room is pitch dark, this removal disallows the ease and comfort that keeps the mind free of stress. In different words, the brain finds patterns, creates maps, and automates activities, which makes for a ripe environment for the mind to grow; the mind is happy when the brain is not being used up, when it is not on auto-pilot, so to speak. Over the past two months, my brain has been completely "used up", which has disabled my mind from its most basic of functions. In summary, routine can help the mind grow because the brain is not in its way. Therefore I look forward to more routine soon!
- Patience is among the greatest of virtues: I already knew this but it is strongly confirmed now. Trying to accomplish a large goal in a short period of time increases the odds of failure. Try painting a room (and making it look good) in less than one hour. To put it simply, it doesn't work! This is like trying to fry an egg on high heat in less than one minute rather than at medium for three minutes. You don't get a good result but you could have accomplished something great if you only waited a little longer. The carpenter's rule, "measure twice, cut once," applies here a well. I'll put it this way: By the time the project was well under way, I was measuring two or three times before cutting!
- Perfection is the enemy of the good: This is similar to my point on patience. As Plato taught, ideas can be perfect but the world is not perfect. The imagination can and must be used to accomplish something wonderful; however, having the expectation of matching what has been imagined is not wise. Our philosophy in this process was "strive for perfection but accept excellence." Our work is not perfect but we have achieved excellence (and saved a significant amount of money doing things ourselves)! By the way, keeping expectations reasonable allowed for many positive surprises and outstanding discoveries along the way. One cannot be surprised if expectation is there.
In total, and upon reflection, our experience has been quite positive and I now look forward to being back in full force, making more observations and making some sense of the contradictions of mankind, here at TFP by month's end. I also dare venture to say that I will finish my book project before the end of the year!
Enjoy the remainder of your Summer...