Don’t get caught up on the little details.

Yesterday I talked a bit about our bathroom and what a major pain in the ass it’s been to fix that and all the other things the original designers and contractors skimped out on when building the house in 1991. Luckily for you (and for me, for the sake of getting a new blog post done every day), I didn’t only get a spurt of inspiration from being frustrated about people taking the easy way out. I also got some inspiration for positive things!

Basically, now that we’ve got the new bathtub in, the new walls up, and the new plumbing (mostly) in place, we’re onto tiling. I mentioned that in the last article, too. Tiling is a big job. Before two days ago, I didn’t know jack shit about all that went into a tiling job, and boy am I grateful my father-in-law worked professionally in tiling for a few years when he was in college. Otherwise, the Partner in Crime and I would have been totally lost.

I felt a bit like a cat, actually, as I watched (and helped, when I could) the two of them cut and place tile–as the barren, ugly walls slowly transformed into something beautiful and eye-catching. I asked tons of questions, and the information I gleaned will probably only come in handy the maybe-one time of the year my sisters and I play Battle of the Sexes. But what really caught me were the tiny errors that they made along the way. Maybe a tile was a bit too wide. Maybe the spacing was just a tad uneven. At one point, my father-in-law explains this to me:

“If you get caught up on fixing all of the tiny details, you’ll never finish tiling. When we grout it, you’ll be amazed how many of these tiny flaws just disappear.”

And I nodded and took into account the few tiny mistakes I could see from where I was standing. Some crooked lines. Some pieces that were barely off center. One tile that drooped a bit more than the others. But I trusted my father-in-law, because hell, at least I don’t have to be the one doing all this insane tile-work, and you know what?

He’s totally right.

Putting on the finishing brought everything together, and my bathroom looks absolutely stunning. We have a few final pieces to finish before I can actually use my shower, but overall, the big job’s done, and it’s absolutely phenomenal. I think all artist can learn a thing or two from that situation.

Let’s look at this from a writer’s perspective. Many of us have a habit of editing as we go, literally reworking a scene over and over until every piece is grammatically and syntactically correct and every sentence beautiful and well constructed. By the time we’re done writing three-pages, hours have passed and, relatively speaking, we haven’t made much forward progress at all. Compared to the writer who leaves the little details behind and continues to trudge forward at a steady, level pace, the writer who edits-as-she-goes is never going to finish.

I know this because I know many writers who don’t finish their projects for this exact reason.

This is different than cutting corners. This isn’t ignoring glaring issues that can affect the whole outcome of the final project. This is letting a few misspellings stay until you go back for the final revision. It’s letting an awkwardly-worded sentence hang out for a while until you finish the chapter. It’s giving yourself a chance to actually make progress and see what the whole picture is going to look like before you go in and spend time grouting the cracks you fudged up a little bit.

You want to pay attention to your tiny details–you want to be able to come back and fix them later–but if you get too caught up on them in the middle of writing, you’ll never get to the end of writing.


Categories: My Life, Opinions and Rants, Writing

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