It would be kind of neat if hard was ‘easy’, wouldn’t it? But usually — speaking from experience of undertaking a lot of jobs I have no idea how to do, let alone do well, what one thinks will be easy is always hard. What one expects to be hard… isn’t always as hard as think it is going to be, as the actress said to the bishop.
I’ve just set about improving the fire-safety of our home, turning area below us – a half-acre or so of weeds a scrub and shrubs into something slightly less flammable, if not lawn. Grass at least. A couple of days work. Easy. A bit of clearing obstacles, and rotary hoe, then plant.
Well, um. in a word, no. You see, the property has been through several owners, all of whom wanted to build roughly where we did. It’s the best spot, with the best view. It was once a paddock, but the natural forest returns fast here. So what looked like chest-high weeds was the debris of repeated attempts at clearing before the next lot of would-be home-builders ran into the horrendous regulatory nightmare the local authorities ‘assist’ you with, and the cost of complying with the same in a very difficult environment (everything – to comply – must be shipped in, and comply that certified local tradesmen that know they charge well above mainland rates, or you have ship in and pay for coming over and accommodation of people from the mainland.) The island is a beautiful, friendly place, but the petty bureaucrats have turned so many properties here, particularly the cheaper ones, into devastated hopes and dreams, for no particularly good reason, or benefit to anyone. This place too had been through just that.
The weeds hid many stumps and the splintered remnants of broken bulldozed trees. And, while I could just have pushed all the debris to edges, that would just have been a slightly further away fire-hazard. It couldn’t be burned in place (too many other trees beyond) and so thinking I might as well get some use out of it, I cut for firewood what was use-able and buried as a carbon addition to our low carbon soils (I’d have liked to charcoal it – but too hard) the rest in about 12 massive holes. It took weeks and produced about 4 years worth of mediocre firewood, blisters, and a zone of weedy devastation. I’d reach the end of an exhausting day and not see any difference. Day after day. It was not quite as endless as the picture, but felt that way. And I knew the grass had to be in before the spring rains finished…
The part I expected to be hard was rotary-hoeing the area. I had borrowed a fitting and tracked bob-cat type machine for it and – after the drama, I expected it to take weeks. Initially I had expected a few hours, but with the experience of clearing debris, I was sure it was going to be a circus.
It actually took about 4 hours – more-or-less what I expected. My skills were tepid, but I had the right tool for the job. The seed was sowed, covered and and watered by nightfall. I’ve now got a week or so to get it wallaby fenced – or they’ll eat the new grass and kill it. I’m actually good with them mowing it once it is established.
In a circuitous way I might as well have been writing about the process of producing books. I also started with some wildly wrong assumptions there. I thought writing it would be hard (which it is but less hard than I had assumed) and selling it to a publisher would be the quick, easy part…. 72 rejections later, I finally sold my first. That aside, the environment has changed and if like, the tools possible have changed. I’m now wrestling with covers and proofs and fonts and blurbs – and yeah, oddly, the weeds are full of old debris in the writing. Some I am trying to get some use out of – which may take longer than just pushing it aside.
Still, if there is one thing I wanted you take out of this, it is that your untested assumptions may well be as wrong as mine. The impossible-seeming, take forever, never seem to achieve anything despite working endlessly job is actually possible and getting done. And the bit you thought might be hard, may not be that bad, and the easy bit… probably will be terrible.