How Handy Are You?

Let’s talk about fear, courage, and unexpected competence.  This can apply to just about anything, but in my life, it applies to writing, programming, and being a homeowner.

A couple of weeks ago, I started a project I’d put off for too long: retiling my shower.  The previous “tile” was actually some sort of particle board made to look like tile, and it was water damaged and warped.  It was scary, and I’d procrastinated fixing it because I thought it was going to be really expensive, or really difficult.  After worrying about it for years, I got up one morning, put on my worker boots, and went to work.

I’d done my homework.  I’d watched several hours worth of videos that covered the subject material.  When I went to Home Depot for the parts, I asked the people working there about specifics.  The cloud of uncertainty dissipated as I was armed with enough information to get the job done.

What I had going for me was resolve, which you can use in place of confidence.  With confidence, you can face a task without worry, knowing that you’re going to get through to the other side.  With resolve, you still have the worry.  You just know that you’re going to do it anyway, even if it means royally screwing up.

While talking to one of the guys at Home Depot about refinishing the shower pan, he started to say something and then stopped and asked, “How handy are you?”

I said, “I don’t know.  Kinda handy?”

Later on, that question kept coming back to me as I worked on the project.  What does it mean to be handy?  Is there an objective measure for the level of someone’s handiness?  How handy was I?

I pushed on.  I cut out old parts of the wall and replaced it with new material.  I sealed the walls, tiled them, and grouted.  I scoured the shower pan and refinished it with a white epoxy material.  I acquired masonry bits and drilled holes in the porcelain tiles, so that I could put up the shower doors.  Today, I installed the shower head and controls, and everything looks pretty good and works.

Job finished!  Yay!

So, I guess I’m pretty handy.  I thought about it some more, and looked back at all of the other projects I’ve done around the house.  I’ve replaced faucets, installed appliances, replaced ceiling fans, run network and speaker cables… I’ve done a ton of stuff in this house.  I’ve plumbed.  I’ve carpentered.  I guess I am handy!

Looking back at it, the hardest part wasn’t the work itself.  Don’t get me wrong… there were aspects of this project which were extremely difficult.  None of the physical labor compared to the mental anguish I put myself through, trying to figure out if I could do it.  I had to tackle self-doubt and fear just to get to the point where I was picking up tools.

It didn’t matter how much work I’d done around the house before this project.  I kept asking myself the question, “What if I fail?” I couldn’t move on until I either answered that question, or decided that it didn’t matter.

Now let’s look at my writing.

The same kind of fear, and the same kind of question comes up. “What if I fail?”

Just like with the shower project, I have to push past that.  Sometimes, I’m able to gather up my resolve and push on.  Other times, I get deflected and wander off to do something else.

The hard part isn’t the actual writing.  Once I start going, I have a great time.

It doesn’t matter how much writing I’ve done in the past.  It doesn’t matter how many stories I’ve already written.  The one that’s important is the one that’s in front of me.  Even if it doesn’t come out perfect, I have to pick up my tools and start crafting, and let fear be damned.

One thought on “How Handy Are You?

  1. I have faced that same question many times. What if I fail? I have learned a couple of things: I almost never fail as big as I think I will. I have also read recently, and may have shared this with you already, that the brain learns more from failure than it does success. For me, when I ask myself what if I fail, I follow that question to ridiculous ends and once I do that I am pretty ready to tackle just about anything. I am fairly smart and pretty darn handy, especially where cars are concerned. I have also learned that I am smart enough to. if as I look a couple of steps ahead as I am working, and have an “uh oh” moment to stop. Seems like you are also smart enough to stop if you see something coming that you may not be sure of. It also appears that once you start, you have done your homework. Something I hate to admit that I don’t always do til the middle of the job.

    As far as your writing is concerned, I really hope you take that last paragraph to heart! You do enjoy writing so very much. You get so much from it and makes you happy. If as you have said, that success may not mean being published, then you really can’t fail. The modeling that you’re doing for your kids around following dreams and doing what makes you happy is going to be successful over and over. That in itself is pretty damn cool.

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