The icing on the cake

The icing on the cake

Is it just me or is the first half of any project harder to do than the second half?  More stressful, less satisfying, more time consuming and less predictable.

Take painting a room. It feels like the job is almost too much effort to bother when you are starting out; moving the furniture, washing the walls, filing the holes made by picture hooks and living. I love picking paint colors and picturing the project done, but it feels like forever before any color hits the wall. It’s so darn tempting to just start brushing it on, ignoring the prep work all together.

Don’t forget the priming. I know the best end result starts with priming old color and stains. But that doesn’t help my irritation level as I struggle with the application of what feels like dry paint against sand paper, knowing there is no such thing (at least in my world) as an even coat. Even the first coat of color isn’t satisfying. It feels like it takes forever, it’s all cutting in with very little rolling, I can see shadows from beneath, no matter how carefully I apply the coat.

Then comes the final coat. Rolls on smooth, takes half the time to apply, instant gratification. Tada!!!

It’s like the icing on a cake – by far the best and sweetest part. But icing is the smallest part of the cake experience and you have to eat the cake to appreciate the icing. There’s a reason we don’t make a bowl full of icing and just eat that (well, more than once…) The icing is only delicious in proportion and contrast to the cake. And the final coat of paint wouldn’t provide the same satisfaction without knowing the quality and effort that came before.

I’ve painted rooms enough times to know this is the process, every time. I also know that describing it to people as they begin a painting project allows them to relax into the process without as much tension as they would normally have. And I know this isn’t just about painting. Or cake.

I’m trying to get down to writing in a serious way these days. I started by getting all the long standing chores off my list. Got the dent in the car repaired, oil changed, cell phone upgraded, and the new one programmed. Upgraded my cable package and reduced the price. Paid my annual house insurance, bought and installed the broken piece for my dishwasher, prepped my garden for winter. (OK, this last one was a treat I allowed myself…) In effect, moved the furniture out of my way.

 I spent a lot of time prepping; sorting and sifting through the random ideas written on scraps of paper, reviewing earlier writing attempts, classifying blogs vs. articles vs. books. Outlining my thoughts for cohesion. The room, I declared, is now ready for paint.

So now, I thought, I’m on the primer coat. Yet despite all my previous effort, I spent an hour this morning trying, unsuccessfully, to connect my two home computers into the same homegroup they used to be in, before I upgraded my cable connection.  I’m paying for a couple of different webhosting services, might switch to a third, need to cancel at least one of them. The leaves have fallen off the trees outside, I’m behind in the laundry, I have no food in the house. And now my car insurance is due! Am I back to moving furniture?

No, no, no. This is part of the primer coat. Part of painting a room is the disruption it causes in the rest of your life. That furniture had to go somewhere and now you climb over it whenever you walk down the hall. Some of the drop cloth you used to cover the floor will have shifted, so there is always back and forth between prepping and painting. And there will always be holes to fill, holes you didn’t spot when you were filling the holes but that you know will ruin the finished product if not addressed. 

The thing of value here, the reason for this conversation in my head, is to remind myself not to quit. It always feels crappy as I begin the primer coat. I’m not anywhere near the end of the project, I haven’t found a flow, the work is less than satisfying. If I don’t stay focused I am at greatest risk of quitting while all this is true.

But I have ample evidence that this is the time to keep pushing through. If I can keep painting, keep responding to whatever challenges show up, I will end up with a project well done and a feeling of great satisfaction. If I try to take short cuts I know I’m going to see them when the final coat is done and they’re going to take away from the ultimate result.

So, I’m going to spend the time to get my computers to talk so I can ultimately spend less time sharing files between them. I’m going to ignore the websites for now, do the laundry and shopping when I’ve exhausted my ability to write, and use the leaves as a little icing for the late afternoons. And I’m going to embrace and enjoy writing as my current focus, knowing that in the long run the final results will be sweet. The icing on the cake.

Losing "the thread"

Losing "the thread"

Have you considered quitting?

Have you considered quitting?