Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Done is Better Than Perfect

Lessons learned from cutting the grass

For forty-three years I served as my husband’s barber. Yep, he let me cut his hair but refused to let me cut the grass. Why? I am terrible with a mower. I leave tall swaths of grass in the middle of a nicely mown lawn. If I do a good job and cut every piece, it’s only because I’ve used enough gas going over and over the yard to have raced a couple of laps at the Indy 500.

Now I have to cut the grass. I do it though I am still terrible at the job. I’ve had other women tell me how much they enjoy using their lawnmower. How it gives them time to think or how it is great exercise. Okay, I’ll give them that last one. I’m pretty sure I lose weight every time I mow. Of course I reward myself with ice cream so the whole exercise thing is a wash.

I have, however, learned lessons from this weekly activity I can apply to my writing.

The grass didn't need to be cut all winter. I was in the clear for months. Then…summer came and the grass was getting high. I was clueless about mowing the grass so I called my neighbor, an experienced grass cutter. Steve came and started my mower for me. He showed me how to push in the little flappy button thing and then pull the rope. The first time I mowed, he started it for me. He then told me how to engage the…thing… whatever it is called…to make the mower go uphill easier. And I learned that if you let go of the whatchamacallit, the mower stops. It’s a safety feature. I may not know all the terms, but I got the idea. The lesson here is this: If you don’t know, ask. Join a writer support group or a critique group. There will always be someone to help you as you write.

The second lesson I can apply to my writing is this: Figure out how to make what you have work for you.  Yep. I mowed my grass that first day. It took me forever, but I did it. About a week later, the green stuff was back. I knew I couldn’t keep calling Steve to start my mower, so I decided to do it myself. The first problem I faced was learning to start the machine. It turns out I am shorter than I think. My arm isn’t long enough to hold onto the whatchamacallit and still pull the rope. After a bit of thought, I realized I could loop a rope around the whatchamacallit, then push the lawn mower away from me while simultaneously pulling the starter rope and holding onto the other rope. Confused? Don’t worry. Just trust me when I say it works.

Sometimes when I’m writing, I wish I had a certain program or software to make the job easier. Or I wish I had the resources to get glossy, professional business cards made up. Oh, yeah, if you read last week’s post –Rebecca Waters: Undercover Boss—you know I now have the money to get those cards! But that hasn’t always been the case. My middle daughter designed and printed up my first set of business cards the night before the first writing conference I ever attended. I meet writers all the time who talk a big game and have all the bells and whistles, but don’t use them. And I meet other writers who make what they have work for them. They are the ones who publish.

The biggest lesson I learned in my summer grass cutting experiences came from my youngest daughter. After that first day…and I’m pretty sure it took a whole day…I moaned about the task.
“But you finished the mowing?” she asked.
            “Uh-huh.” I was so exhausted I could barely speak. “But it doesn’t look very good. Your dad would have been disappointed.”
            “Sometimes, Mom, done is better than perfect.”
            Wise words. I love that girl. And they are words I need to remember when I’m writing. There is a reason we create a FIRST DRAFT: to get it done; to get the flow of the story down on paper. Trying to perfect what we write as we go is paralyzing. Get the job done. You can always go back and revise.

There are many more points writers can draw from cutting the grass. For example:
·      Before you start, get rid of the debris that threatens to sidetrack you or break your pace
·      When you edit, cut…then go back in a week and cut some more.
·      Get rid of the weedy words that choke out your story and sidetrack your readers
·      Learn the order of things—pump, hold, pull, engage –write, edit, revise, rewrite
·      Finally, keep plugging along. Do what you have to do to get the job done. And don’t run out of gas.

Thanks for dropping by…what lessons for writing have you learned from your everyday activity? Thanks for leaving a comment and sharing the post!



  1. Oh, so true. And sometimes when life brings either heartache or joy - stopping for a season doesn't mean you're quitting, just adding to fertilizer to the future stories.

    1. Love it! Fertilizer to future stories! I think I've heard a few of those! LOL Thank, Robyn for dropping by!

  2. Who knew that mowing could be a great writing tip! Thanks for sharing.


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