I’m not really a grumpy, grumbly person, usually. But some things have started to get to me.
(If you can read this in Andy Rooney’s voice, so much the better!)
Last Thursday, for example. I stopped by the post office to mail a package and two cards. It wasn’t a complicated mailing situation. The package was being delivered locally and the two cards were headed up I-75 to my in-laws. There was a short line, and I’ve found the local post office personnel to be helpful and speedy, most of the time.
When the clerk asked me the obligatory question about whether my package contained “hazardous or flammable materials” and such, I replied, “No, it’s just a book. Nothing dangerous.”
Consulting her computer screen, she says to me, “It can go overnight, since it’s in our area code, for $5.00, or, since it’s a book, you can send it book rate for $3.00 and it will go from here, all the way up to Jacksonville, get sorted, and come back, and will take 7 to 10 days.” (I rounded the cents. Sue me.)
Now, why does it make sense to charge me less and do all that extra work and take several more chances that it will be lost or damaged? Why not charge me less and just hold it in the local post office for a week, if you want to make some kind of point. Better yet, offer a “local next day for less” promotion where I pay the lower rate and you walk over and put it in that bucket that will be sorted locally, just like all the other mail? It only makes sense if you’ve created an inflexible system that doesn’t have room for an intrusion of common sense.
How does this apply to our writing? Well, it is a bit of a stretch, but what the post office’s “system” reminded me of is the concept of “unnecessary complexity” that we writers sometimes have. It’s our way of taking our writing work and making it much more complicated than it needs to be. It might be that we do more research than we really need for a certain part of a story or we set up this elaborate and complex set of “if onlys” that have to all fall like dominoes before we are “ready” to write.
The bottom line is this: unnecessary complexity isn’t doing much for the post office’s bottom line, and it doesn’t do much for our writing, either. Be vigilant that you aren’t creating chaos in order to avoid doing the work. Look for little ways to simplify. Think about WHY you do WHAT you do as a writer. Weed out the unnecessary things that drain your energy and momentum.
Now, let me tell you about the local Sports Shop and this exercise bike…
More next time.