Well, in my case, I am starting to wonder. I started out simply trying to improve my writing by writing about my experiences and nonsense off-the-grid. And, to whatever extent that happened, that exercise is mostly over.
More exercise usually, in theory, continues improvement. Incrementally. But we all have to face the law of diminishing returns. I live by the 80/20 rule. My writing might be getting a little better. Maybe. Slowly. But not everything is.
Writing is more than just crafting sentences and telling anecdotes, it includes interesting topics and wrenching efforts at truth-telling. And that’s today’s topic. Truth-telling.
Case in point: Writing and building are different. I have lost faith in any improvement in my construction.
And I have found some holes in the 80/20 rule. They were discovered by my constructing the world’s worst greenhouse. Too complicated to explain but, trust me, it’s bad. You’d think I would be getting better at building small structures but I am not. Incremental improvement is not working for me. I am now building to the 20/80 rule: 20% of the effort is yielding 80% of the mistakes.
I don’t know why, exactly*. I mean, a part of it is that I have become dysfunctionally comfortable with building-on-the-fly. I like to ‘wing it’. Feels more creative, organic, fluid, expressive…ya know..? I guess I am a hippy at heart when it comes to building. But, those kinds of feelings can be a smidge difficult to reconcile with square, level and plumb. There is something about building that requires discipline and I have always had trouble with that. (*I do know why: Sal supplied the discipline by nagging me about such things but she is quilting, yoga-ing and book-clubbing now and it is noticeable by her glaring absence on the job site).
So, I told my neighbour my problem. “My greenhouse is crap!”
“What’s wrong? Show me the plan.”
“I don’ need no stinkin’ plan!”
“No plan? How did you start?”
“By looking at all the loose crap I had under the house and sorting through the assorted windows I had salvaged….”
“So, you are using a pile of stuff that isn’t of the same materials or dimensions or designed for the intended purpose and, with no plan whatsoever, you are attempting to cobble it all together into a rectangular, strong, functional greenhouse?”
“Yeah. What’s your point?”
My neighbour just laughs. Mind you, I am talking to guy who does several drafts on paper before building a birdhouse from a store-bought kit. He reads the instructions. He studies the manual. He goes to the university library and looks up ‘BIRDHOUSES’. We are different peas in different pods, he and I.
“Do you want me to come over, maybe offer some advice?
“Absolutely not! Not ever! If you come to visit, from now on you have to wear a blindfold. I swear.”
“Well, did you at least use a string line?”
“Of course I did. But it kept getting in the way….so…no, not the whole time….”
“Getting in the way of what?”
“The walls. They kept weaving up against the string and pushing it out of straight. So, I was going to try to straighten the walls when it occurred to me that removing the string was easier.”
“You still building to the 20 year rule?”
“I’ve cut back.”