I’m finally through the worst of the massive and insurmountable hurdles with our home. Most of them, being me, I went around. Some of them I just went through. And a few proved just massive and not insurmountable. Still it was, in retrospect, a crazy, huge project to undertake, taking an old house, moving it and… um rebuilding the part that the contractors moved and broke (who did the second third – I and friends did the first, and I and friends did the last third. Especially the last third was a vast amount of prep – dig a hole. Roll the house over the hole (filling with water… and drive the truck into the hole, drop the house a little onto the truck, and then drive and pull the truck out. That, in the end left me with 1/3 either end of a home –up on semi-trailers (where it will remain), a floor in the middle, that my friend helped me reconstruct, and the frames – some of which were very much the worse for wear.
I know (or knew) almost nothing about building, and I’m just one guy, not a very large one, working through a wet winter, trying to write too, to keep the cash flow going, because we just had way too little money for Australian prices, and tradesmen (other than the legally required electrician and plumber) were just out of the question. Emigration cleaned us out, and it took 10 years of saving – because I’m an author and a terrible risk for banks to get our little rundown farm and the chance at a home. Okay so it was utter madness, and deserved to fail.
Only it didn’t. Yes, we had a lot of support from friends, lots of scavenged bits, from them and the tip, and a lot of me being the elderly electrician and the elderly plumber’s (both friends) dogsbody, and having a good friend lend me some heavy machinery (which I didn’t know how to use… then). The place is up and water-tight, and has lights, hot and cold running water, insulation, and flushing conveniences (to say nothing of a septic tank and a council approved drainfield (which was the single most expensive – and biologically un-necessary thing in the whole project.)) We somehow got a huge wood-burning heater in and I put in a chimney. I set up a solar power-plant, and our own double water system (rainwater for drinking and dam water for flushing. You might flush a frog… or at least a tadpole.
We put in floating laminate floor in our future lounge last weekend, and got the floors in the loos almost done this weekend (an Ambulance callout (we’re now both doing Volunteer Ambulance Service) took a lot of time on one day – but it is close).
My dear wife is saying we can move a bed up and move in.
I… am dead tired, need more writing time. Need to stop burning the candle both ends AND the middle.
And I said… ‘Not just yet.’
Now I know, eventually, that the irresistible force will overcome the immovable object. Or vice versa, depending. I’ve been married for long enough to know, and to know which side is likely to be me. She’s right, we could. Yes, there’s still a lot that needs doing. Uh. Years of stuff, probably. Some of it is going to be a lot easier, without having to fight my way around furniture, and the cat. Especially the cat.
But… right now, I have been SO invested in doing this, giving far too much of my self, doing what three twenty year-olds would baulk at (and I ain’t twenty, alas), keeping writing, keeping up my Ambulance volunteer work, even fitting in the occasional dive. I’ve pushed ridiculously hard, keeping going by sheer bloody minded obstinacy. It’s had its rewards, but it’s been the toughest year I’ve had since I did Ichthy Honours, back when before dinosaurs and fax machines and when unicellular algae was progressive (ok, so some things don’t change). At that time that was considered the hardest science postgrad in the country, and the standard day was 9am… until 2am, 7 days a week. We started 3 weeks before any other department, and only took fanatical fishy fanatics. It’s now a three year course. People said it was a great proof that you could work hard… once. I think it wrecked as many graduates as it made.
Anyway: Common sense, logic, every other damn thing says ‘stop working on your home. Move in’
I’ve been here before. Oddly, in my other hard year – when I rewrote my thesis (half our final mark), seven times.
Eventually my supervisor said, when I started making comments about what I could add and change: ‘Just stop. You’ve just handed me your final. Print another three copies, and turn them in to Prof Hecht. He’ll need them for the examiners.’
“I think I should…
“Stop. You’re not making it better.”
So I did. I really, badly needed to. I was physically and mentally exhausted.
I needed to. But I did not want to. I remember turning the printed and bound copies in to the Prof’s secretary, and then standing out in the passage… wandering what the hell I did now? It was mid-day. I couldn’t knock off at mid-day. And I was sure I could find typos or something to fix or graph better or… I had pushed myself so hard, and I wanted a First Class for that. I’d worked for it… and I was terrified I wouldn’t get it. I was scared. I was also used to that being my day, my life, my reason to push and work.
You know, I can barely remember the details of the thesis anymore, which I was even dreaming about at the time. I know it was – in my opinion – a great piece of ‘bridging’ showing that the two competing theories of island biogeography were in fact part and parcel of each other, and mathematically predictable and dependent, as far the various species of Cichlid fish in Lake Malawi were concerned anyway It got me that first class mark I wanted. What that was worth, now? Not much. By now I doubt if anyone living has even read it, or stayed awake when they did read it. And now, with the 20:20 vision of hindsight, I know I could handed it in at third draft, and got the same mark and been just as incomprehensible.
And since then I’ve given the same advice to a fair number of writers. Some have even listened to me, not written that next draft, and just gone ahead and submitted or published.
But others – I know quite a few – some had managed to push through to the words ‘THE END’ fine. With relief, even. Some couldn’t quite get there. They’re still writing and re-editing previous chapters years on. But even among the ones who did write the last words…
They just, like I am now, failed to let go. And they’re still polishing and adding a few more chapters and tweaking this or that… sometimes years after the book has been finished. Because we’re scared. Because that striving has become such a part of us. We’ve put so much in, it’s taken so much out… and we can’t actually imagine stopping.
Every book can be made better. But sometimes you’re gaining microns… and losing feet in other areas.
Sometimes you just have to stop.
You’re probably not going to improve it that much in the reader eyes. And in a few years, no one will remember it. Go ahead and write another instead.
No I am not moving another house.