How to stop being such a tool

It's time to build

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I don’t do house repairs. Well, I do sometimes. But maybe I shouldn’t.

You know that saying “measure twice, cut once”? For me, it’s more like “measure twice, cut once, somehow it’s still wrong, measure it again, cut it again, still wrong, throw out the piece and start over”. If there’s a screw involved, it’s almost certainly getting stripped.

It’s a miracle that the projects I’ve decided to tackle haven’t caused an injury more serious than a minor cut or splinter.

My meager tool collection is a hodge-podge of items I’ve somehow procured over the last twenty-some-odd years. I can’t remember buying any of them. They live on a shelf in my garage, mostly collecting dust and providing anchor points for spider webs. They’ve moved with me from house to house throughout California—from Santa Barbara to Santa Rosa to Sonoma.

I’m about halfway through reading the iconic book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. I found it the other day in one of those Little Free Libraries in our neighborhood. It has me questioning my approach to doing house repairs all these years.

I’ve always admired people who could build things. My wife’s uncle Mark is one of those people. He’s a retired carpenter and he’s literally building an entire house from scratch on his own right now. I’d at least want another set of hands to help hold a ladder or a piece of wood in place here and there.

I’ve been reflecting on how I’ve gotten here. I’m adept at navigating and troubleshooting technological issues like if the wifi is down or getting an Excel formula to do what I want. In those cases, I’m not worried about breaking something because I can always just start over or reboot or Command-Z undo it.

But how do I conquer my fear of screwing something up in the real world?

How can I stop being such a tool and learn to love working with tools?

But wait, does any of this really matter? I mean, could a carpenter sit down and write something like this? Maybe a carpenter would admire my writing and be frustrated every time they try to write because it doesn’t come out like they want it to. After all, there are some similarities between carpentry and writing. We’re both trying to construct the individual components of our craft—wood, screws, and nails versus words, paragraphs, and narrative structure—into a cohesive and compelling final product.

Starting with a field of dirt and building an entire house on it sounds like a formidable, time-intensive project. I wouldn’t know where to start.

It’s not that I’m afraid of big projects. I’m working on a book project, which is almost certainly a multi-year endeavor.

Are you really though?

Oh, crap. It’s you again.

Haha, yep. So, what were you saying about not being afraid of projects like your “book”?

Why did you put the word book in quotes?

I’m just saying, I haven’t seen a whole lot of book project work going on lately.

Life’s been a bit busy, don’t you think?

Well, yeah. But life’s always busy, man. If that was a valid excuse then nobody would ever get any big projects done.

That’s true. But my life has been particularly busy lately with figuring out my daughter Em’s preschool situation, my dad passing recently, job interviews, writing this newsletter every week, and, you know, general life stuff.

Yeah, but something tells me that there’s more going on than you’re letting on.

I guess you’d know since you’re my subconscious. Or whatever you are.

Good point. I was trying to be a little nice for once and not just berate you for being a lazy-ass failure like I usually do.

Thanks, I guess?

You’re welcome! Now, where were we? Oh, right, we were discussing how you’re actively avoiding working on your “book”.

Look, stop putting it in quotes. I hear you, okay? I know I haven’t been putting enough time into it. I know I need to make it a daily thing or else it’ll never get done. And I know the best way to figure out where it’s going is to sit my ass down and do the work. I know all these things.

I know that you know all those things.

Right, of course you do.

It’s just that a book is such a daunting project with so many unknowns since I’ve never done this sort of thing before. I completely restructured the first few chapters the other week and I’m not sure if I like it yet. On the one hand, it feels like I need to let things like that marinate for a few days. But on the other hand, I know it’s important to write each day and chip away at the bigger goal.

The other thing I struggle with is this:

I need to build an audience in order to sell my book. And this is true whether I go with the traditional get-an-agent-and-pitch-it-to-publishers route or the self-publishing route. An audience gives me the leverage to do what makes the most sense for me.

Remember how different it was for the music industry when my band signed our record deal almost twenty years ago?

Uh, yeah, it’s sort of my job to remember these things.

Oh, right. Well, for everyone else, let me explain.

I’ll never forget the date my old band, Pressure 4-5, signed our record deal with DreamWorks. It was 11/22/00, November 22, 2000.

A few years ago, I was cleaning up our garage and came across a bin with a bunch of my band stuff inside and I saw our contract. The deal was for two albums guaranteed. Plus, the record label—not the people actually writing the music—had the option for four more albums and a Greatest Hits album. That’s right, a group of five guys, who at the time were unknown to the world outside of their relatively small West Coast regional audience, signed a deal that included an option for a Greatest Hits album.

Book contracts work differently, though. They’re done on a project-by-project basis. It makes so much more sense, don’t you think?

For sure. But let’s get back to the point. You need to actually write the damn thing first.

Do you have an off button?

LOL, no you’re stuck with me forever.

Ugh. If I work on the book a little bit each day, will you chill out for awhile?

Yeah, but first, I’m sending you an idea for a dumb joke to tweet.


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