The Grind

In a bygone era, I used to restore classic cars. As a vehicle builder, I had the requisite skills for the task, and became quite competent at turning out ground-up restorations that satisfied my customers. As far as job satisfaction goes, it was very rewarding. In the area of financial return? Well, not so much.

The problem was the time required to do the job well. True restoration involves stripping the vehicle to a bare body-shell, removing and replacing rusted or damaged panel work and then slowly re-manufacturing the entire project using new or reconditioned parts. It involved long hours of painstaking labor, attention to detail, and a truckload of patience.

There came a point in every job where I would despise the task. The quitting point, as it were. That is where I learned tenacity; the dogged determination to continue. This despite the task drifting far past the original completion date, the customer visibly straining at the leash to take delivery. To rush the job would require compromising the quality, and that affected my name as a quality restorer. Therefore, I would have to burn the midnight oil, put my head down, and soldier on. I used to call this part “The Grind.” It was a reference to the amount of time I spent with an angle grinder, sander, or polisher of some sort in my hands. It amuses me no end that computer gamers call the labor involved in earning upgrade rewards in their games by the same name. However, I don’t think your average gamer would last very long laying on his back on a hot Queensland summer day in a full dust suit grinding rust off the underneath of a car.

I am grateful those days are behind me. At least, the days of back-breaking, ear damaging, lung destroying labor on cars are behind me. The grind, though, is still here.

The Road Out continues to consume long hours of re-reads, re-writes, and proofreading. Some nights the words literally swim on the monitor, frustration giving way to feelings of inadequacy; all the hallmarks of the perfectionism that has tormented me all my life. The thing that keeps me motivated is, without doubt, Rob’s encouragement.

He assures me the story is good, with a fairly gentle tale carrying a menace of something looming in the near future. This is perfect, because that is exactly what happens. At the two-thirds completed point, we are approaching the part where the main characters have the story resolve into true focus for them. They get to learn how a fairly innocuous,  though life changing, decision can reap consequences of a magnitude completely out of scale to anything they imagined or intended. And, although Rob is a professional writer, he hasn’t guessed what the big consequence is. He is only receiving one chapter at a time, to help him identify plot problems. It is very beneficial to me to hear that he is full of expectation, but grasping at straws in regard to what actually happens.

This alleviates the self-doubt that I experience, when the words won’t come. I look at the original wording and cannot apply the principles to correct it immediately. I get frustrated at myself, because I should have learned by now. But, I soldier on. Move onto the next chapter, get some stuff done there. I come back to the self-same part the next night, and lo and behold, it comes into focus.

I have learned to work on four or five chapters at a time, constantly going over them, tweaking, adjusting, and rearranging. The point at which I email a chapter to Rob arrives when I go through a chapter and can find nothing. As we progress, Rob is finding less and less to correct. Ergo, I am learning.

I have no great expectations for this first volume, no dreams of riches and fame. I’ve been down that road with music. Even though I progressed to the point of playing in front of over a thousand people, recorded an album, and can now play pretty much anything given the time to learn it, all that matters is the enjoyment of accomplishing the task.

What I do dream of is the day I can tell my wife to hand her notice in. That may be years away. It may depend on my tenth book, rather than my first.

One thing I am determined to do, and I am firm in that determination to do, is this; I will never give up.

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