3 April 2011
I have a neighbour. His name is Stefano. He is, what I’d consider, a fiddler. A tinkerer. Whenever I’m washing dishes, looking out the kitchen window, he’s out in his yard doing something. Even in the dead of winter with a foot of snow on the ground. I have no idea what he’s doing, but he’s there.
He’s always got projects on the go; he’s in the middle of building a basement suite right now. He owns a little digger machine that he uses to tear up his yard. Over the fall he dug this massive hole in the front lawn. He was intending on installing a pond, but now has different plans. He planted blueberry bushes, not in his own yard, but along the nature strip near the sidewalk outside his fence.
He points over the yard telling me where things will be. Where what fruit tree is where; where the herbs will be; where he’s going to build some berms for planting some vegetables (apparently this will be good to lessen the effects of the wind). We were strolling around my backyard and he noticed that some of the trees were overgrown. He disappeared for a few minutes and came back with a saw and pruning sheers and just started trimming.
Gussying up the place
Dave and I have been advertising our third room to rent. Female preferred, our ad reads. I don’t want to live with all guys in the house; I thought a female presence would balance the energy nicely around here. We had a couple girls come through to check out the place. The second one I thought would take it. She didn’t. Then it hit me. We live in a dude’s pad. If I was a girl coming to look at the place I wouldn’t move in here either.
The first thing to go was the moose antlers on the fireplace mantle. A not-far-second was the Miller Genuine Draft half-mirror bar frame thing on the wall. Those two items alone I’m sure had the girls hauling buns like a bakery truck (that’s so old but I still love using it. Perhaps you’d prefer making like a banana and splitting?).
But there was a long way to go, and it involved moving furniture around. I’d sit there and think about the possibilities, how this would look here, and that would look there. I’d talk about it. “Man, we gotta move this stuff around, maybe put that plant over there, and we gotta get rid of all this shit (pointing to a stack of Playstation 2 games).”
I talked a good talk. But the place remained the same. Then Stefano came over.
So this is the difference between a talker and a doer. Being a tinkerer, he was pretty pumped to rearrange things, and I have to admit, it rubbed off on me. But while I’d stand there intellectually rearranging things in my mind, trying to picture the setup, he’d already have one end of the couch lifted up. Pointing to a side table, I’d say, “hmmm, maybe this would go better there,” and he’d already have it lifted up, midway to the new spot.
It was a big lesson for me. For some reason, I don’t like embarking on things I can’t see the end result of. Unless I can imagine how the room will look after all is said and done, I won’t move one thing. But by moving one thing, it leads to something else moving, and then another thing, and soon, the place is rearranged. Sure, the table might not look right there, but at least it gives a different perspective, and it can be moved again. Maybe just a different angle.
Things have a way of falling into place when they’re in motion.
Room redesign as a metaphor
I can extend this to other parts of my life. My writing “career” for example. I feel like I’ve been spinning my wheels for some time, not progressing, but just doing enough to get by. Perhaps this is the reason. I can’t picture what it will look like down the road. So instead of doing just something (anything), I do nothing.
What it boils down to, though, is procrastination. Which is why I emailed Leo Babauta, of zenhabits, about his latest eBook called Un-Procrastination. Leo’s a doer (check out his story for proof). I asked him for a review copy as this has also been a topic of interest around the Matador editorial team. The PDF is in my Inbox.
I just have to get to it.