… and slow down…
After a relaxing run on the Alameda Creek Trail, I went back to my wood shop to contemplate the results of last night’s activity (posted in my last blog). My first impulse was to take stock of the pieces that needed to be re-cut, drag some more wood off the shelf, start re-cutting, and….
take a deep breath
My first clue was the sheer difficulty of trying to wrestle a 14 foot board from under a stack of other 14 food boards (I wanted a narrow one) all by myself. I managed it without knocking too many other items off of their respective surfaces. I struggled to get three boards down, and was starting to take measurements. I wasn’t sure whether to cut them into many short segments, a few medium segments, to rip them in half to near their final width before gluing, or do that after gluing…
It was clear I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do next, and that is a very poor place from which to take irreversible action. It’s one thing if you’re in a crisis and simply need to act without thinking. But that’s the point – I wasn’t in a crisis. I had all the time in the world, in fact. What was tempting was to act as if I was in a crisis, to “shoot from the hip” and get something done quickly. But the more I stopped and thought about it, the less I wanted to be in that state.
but but but if I don’t glue up some wood tonight it won’t be ready for tomorrow when I get home and want to keep working…
I’m not on a time-table. Yes, I’d like to have a dining set finished eventually. One day is not going to make a difference. It sure is going to make a difference if I trash 3 14-foot boards due to hasty judgment.
This is exactly the emotional/mental spot I’m trying to train myself to pause in. I can trace just about every mistake on a project to this slightly manic feeling of wanting to push forward when I hadn’t thought it through. Frankly, it’s *fun* to shoot from the hip, to be in “flow,” etc. Stopping, pausing, deliberating… That’s not “fun” in the same way.
I was on the phone tonight with a friend talking about the culture of software engineering I was in a few years back. Everybody was a cowboy – there was little sense of subordinating one’s own ideas to a common goal of the team or corporation. Yes, this company is known for their creative ideas, but boy, inside, it’s highly inefficient. Lots of duplicated, wasted effort. But I understand where that comes from – producing something, coding, testing, that’s *fun* work. Planning, talking, deliberating… It’s not the same.
My current workplace has managed the blend very well, combining high creativity with discipline and good teamwork. I’m not sure what the “special sauce” is quite yet, but am grateful to be in such a place.
Meanwhile, my personal challenge is to STOP when things are starting to go awry. Back off, give it some time. When I was a kid I’d help my dad with a project around the house, and couldn’t understand why everything took so long with him! He’d light his pipe, and just look at something for a while, go get a cup of coffee, ponder… It makes a lot more sense now – all of his work was top-notch. Everything fit correctly. I never remember him having to “do over” a major piece of work.
Remember I was complaining at how long it was taking me to cut a simple freakin’ 45-degree line in my 3.5″ table feet? Same thing. To get it right I had to cut close with the band saw and then clean it up by hand. How to clean it up wasn’t obvious, and my first impulse was to use my random orbital power sander. Mahogany is relatively soft, and I needed a delicate touch. Too much force, and I sanded an unwanted groove across the wood. Drat! So I re-cut it, and this time tackled it with a hand file. It was sooo s l o w . . . But that’s what it took. I never did get it “perfect,” mainly because I ran out of patience. But I also realized I’m going to have to “soften” that angle a bit to blend in with the rest of the edges anyway, so minor dings would come out later in that process.
Boy, lots of writing. Good for the soul. I’ve been trying to put my finger on this feeling for a while now, and tonight it hit me. It’s hard for me to just STOP. My dad had it right. So now I’m going to leave my blog, sit down with a piece of paper and actually think through the next series of cuts I need to make (with a 14-foot piece of wood, the sheer difficulty of man-handling it means some cuts are simply unsafe to start with).
I hope both of you enjoyed reading this. 🙂