In my mom’s toolbox, she had the basics for twisting (phillips- and flat-head screwdrivers), pounding (hammer), holding (crescent wrench and needle nose vice grip), sticking (duct tape and marine epoxy), and loosening (WD-40). As we all wore glasses, a set of jeweler’s screwdrivers was also a must in our house. With other odds and ends, some basic knowledge, and not-so-common sense, mom figured if she couldn’t fix it with what she had, it was time to hire a professional. The vice grip and duct tape were key to fixing the sump pump with a toilet float one winter. She didn’t even try when, on a Mother’s Day, the hot water heater died.
(By the way, common sense is far from common.)
My toolbox is remarkably similar to my mom’s. Basic tools for basic tasks.
I have four ingredients that I use to fix food: garlic, sour cream, balsamic vinegar, and chocolate. I figure if I can’t fix it with one – or a combination – of those four, it isn’t worth fixing. Mind you, I don’t try to cook things way out of my skill set. If I need a fancy cake or dinner for more than four, I’m finding a professional. If whatever I’m concocting is past saving, into the trash it goes, and I start over – maybe by making something different altogether.
So, what’s my point? Well, I have a few.
One, make sure you have the right tools for the jobs you can do. Be it assembling a bookshelf, making a meal, or building a business.
Two, admit when you cannot, or should not, do it yourself. I leave electricity alone. I cannot make a computer from the parts. If I want my tax return done right, I will not do it myself.
Three, be willing to start over. Thomas Edison said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Some ideas, some processes, even some people are just not going to work for your goal. Keep the goal, re-evaluate the approach.
And what does this have to do with writing? That depends on how you look at it.
The right tools for writing include: a topic, pen/pencil and paper or a computer, a space where you can write productively, time to write productively, and an editor for the stuff that you don’t want to embarrass you.
The most important tool for writing is the ability to express yourself clearly in writing. This is not a tool everyone has; it is also not a tool just anyone can acquire. That’s a good thing. I’m glad that there are people who are willing to work with electricity and can assemble computers – it means I don’t have to. And while I enjoy expressing myself through writing, I’m glad that there are people who don’t so that I can do it for them.
If you don’t have the tools, hire a professional. Time being the tool most of my clients lack. As we all know, time equals money. In this case, that means that even if you technically have the time to write, it might be a waste of money. Is writing how you can best use your tool of time? Or, is your time better spent on or in your business?
Being willing to start over can take many forms. It can mean:
- changing topics – some things are just more interesting than others, the topics that excite you are the ones you will write best about
- changing writers – let’s face it, we all have quirks and specialties that may or may not be appropriate for you
- changing platforms – heaven forbid, you may have an audience that never, ever reads; however, they will watch videos until the sun swallows the earth
So, do you fix it yourself, hire a professional, or start from scratch? Maybe it is better to ask yourself: do I have the tools to fix it, is it cheaper to have someone else fix it, and is it even worth fixing?