Elizabeth: Ch-ch-changes

Apologies for the delay in today’s post, but the Girls in the Basement made a rare appearance last evening and I didn’t have the heart to tell them to go away because I was too busy.

The reason for the arrival of the Girls requires a little background.

Years ago, when my son was just a toddler, I saw a picture in some magazine of a child-sized gazebo.  I thought it was adorable and would provide the perfect amount of shade for a backyard sandbox or maybe a wading pool.

In the typical way of things, however, I lost the magazine.  A Google search did not turn up any simple building instructions, so I reached out to a guaranteed source for help – my dad, who I grew up believing could build anything (he could).

He said he’d look through his woodworking books for some plans.  Life went on and I didn’t hear anything for a while, but then one day he turned up with a piece of wood, which turned out to be a carved finial for the top of my yet-non-existent gazebo.  Over the following weeks, additional pieces arrived until one Saturday afternoon, with the “help” of my son and his little Fisher-Price tools, a child-sized gazebo came to life in the backyard.

It was, indeed, adorable.

Over the years, it housed a sandbox and a wading pool, which in later years served as a giant shaded water dish for the dogs.  At various times there were vines growing up the edges of the gazebo, turning it into a magical cave and the site of many action-figure battles; wind-chimes fluttering in the breeze; and a bird’s nest or two.

Eventually, it faded into disuse and then slowly began to shed various bits and pieces whenever a strong wind passed by.  Periodically I’d look at it and think, it’s probably time to take that down, but never did.  It might have fallen into disuse, but it still provided happy thoughts each time I saw it.

Fast-forward to a few weeks ago to a post* on the Argh Ink blog where Jenny, when talking about a new haircut said, “I love change.”

I had to lie down for a moment to recover from the thought.

I come from a long line of people who tend to stay in the same houses, work in the same jobs, and find happiness (or at least comfort) in the familiar.  It’s safe to say that, unlike Jenny, I do not love change.

That said, I do, on occasion, think about making changes.  Sometimes small changes that do happen, like painting the walls, and sometimes big changes that don’t happen like quitting my job, selling the house, and moving someplace brand-new (though that one still has some appeal to it).

Though change is not my strong-suit, I know that, like death and taxes, it is an inevitable part of life and often beneficial.

Insanity = doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

One area where it is challenging for change to successfully rear it’s head is in the writing space.  Specifically when a story has reached a dead-end or is just not working out.  It’s like working on a jigsaw puzzle where I’m sure if I can just get the existing pieces in the right locations, the full picture will finally be resolved.

After I read Jenny’s post (and recuperated from it), I decided it was time for one small change of my own.  Before I could over-think it or talk myself out of it, I put on my work gloves, grabbed a mallet, and turned the gazebo – which was being held together by little more than wishful thinking at that point – into a pile of rubble.  It took about 3 minutes.

It was unexpectedly satisfying.

The Girls in the Basement must have found it satisfying as well since, later that day, they kindly offered up a suggestion, which would completely change the course of action in my current contemporary WIP.  Apparently, in my jigsaw puzzle analogy above, I was using a jumble of various unrelated pieces.  Some of the pieces that I was trying so hard to get to fit, didn’t belong at all.  Removing them changed everything.

Well, not everything, but you get what I mean.

So, I’m not sure if the take-away for this story is that every writer’s toolkit should include work-gloves and a mallet or maybe just that sometimes the way forward is via change.

Whatever the case, my backyard now has a wide-open feel to it, my story is progressing, and the Girls in the Basement have started dropping by again.

Things are looking up.

* I’d link to the post, but part of her “I love change” mindset resulted in a mass website cleanup and the post no longer exists.

9 thoughts on “Elizabeth: Ch-ch-changes

  1. Congratulations on your demolition project! I’m so glad that the Girls came to your assistance and that there were happy repercussions in your writing life.

    I totally understand about being stalled in the WIP, and for me that means that either I don’t have enough conflict or I’ve gone down the wrong path. Either way, I find the delete key to be essential. This is my favorite key on the keyboard. But if I’m not sure about how much to delete, I paste the deleted section into a separate file, which I call “Unused bits,” and then I never have to look at it again.

    In any event, it’s wonderful to see you embrace change, and I’m so happy it had a happy outcome for you. Keep up the good work! 🙂

    • Thanks Kay. I was definitely down the wrong path but it’s so hard to see that when you’re actually standing on the path. Here’s hoping this new path doesn’t turn out to be a dead-end or a mirage.

      • Yeah, I went 40,000 words down the wrong path once, and I almost threw up by the time I realized I had to cut it. You’re so right that it’s hard to see where you’re going when you’re chugging along.

        By the way, that photo of your dad and your son building the gazebo is adorable.

        • Ugh! I hate throwing away words and starting over again. I guess it’s not terrible if you edit as you go, throwing away 100 or 200 at a time while adding extra bits in. But 40,000? Wah!!!! I think I’d almost rather throw the whole story away at that point and start on something fresh and new. (Although, that attitude is probably part of my problem.)

  2. Socrates said (I’m paraphrasing) that the strongest force in nature is man’s resistance to change. It’s hard, uncomfortable, seemingly self-defeating at the onset, and in some cases, paralyzing. But I’ve often found in my own experience in life that the best things come from it. Is it nauseating when it happens? Yeah, sometimes.

    But quite often, once the proverbial dust has settled, it allows you to gain a whole new perspective on things. And it seems you’ve done exactly that with your WIP. Bravo!

  3. I love the idea of a dog-watering pavilion! Our dogs hate the idea of shelter (unless it’s a People House, and they are supposed to be outdoor dogs) and we’ve tried a thing or two. They ate their dog houses when they were teenage puppies. And the plastic calf shed is something they avoided as much as possible. (Too roomy? Strange sounds when it rained?)

    I can totally see how hard it would be to level that playhouse. So many good memories tied up in it, and it was an excellent idea! Good for you for recognizing that it was done, and it was time to free up that space. (-: And I’m glad it resonated with your girls, too! Very profound idea, that creation sometimes requires destruction.

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