So, I have this table. It’s an old kitchen table that used to belong to my sister. She bought it when she and her family moved into their first house right about when her third child was nearly one year old. Now, her third child is ten years old, and the table? Well, it’s certainly been used, that’s for sure. The top has knife scratches, crayon marks and food stains. The chairs are sticky and dirty and one of the legs looks like a half-eaten bone because my sister’s Labrador chewed on it as a puppy. But despite all of that – and maybe you can blame the DIY network for this – I still wanted to refurbish it. I thought a quick sand, some paint, maybe some stain, it’ll be fun.
That was back in February. Now, after having bought paint and primer, a sander, and who knows how many paint brushes, I’m at least $150 in the hole, and it’s still not finished.
I was out in the backyard working on it, and as I was literally brushing off the cobwebs, I was mentally going through a checklist of what else needed to be done. Paint the chairs, minus the seats because those are already stained. Lightly re-sand. Touch up on stain because there’s already spots of primer splattered here and there. My bad. Coat the entire chair with epoxy. Re-sand the table legs because it’s been a while. Prime the table legs. Lightly re-sand the table legs. Paint the table legs. Lightly re-sand the table legs again. Touch up on stain because it’ll most likely have primer/paint splatter. Coat the entire table with epoxy.
That’s a good ten full days of work, and my mind was telling me that it’s just too much for a table from Ikea that’s probably not even real wood.
To make matters worse, my sister, who borrowed my car for the weekend, texted me saying that I need new windshield wipers and more windshield wiper fluid. I sent a snarky reply back saying, “No. It has fluid. It’s just clogged. And I know exactly what’s wrong with my car so there’s no need for you to tell me.” Then I started a list again. I needed new windshield wiper blades, a new EGR valve, a fuel treatment, a brake flush, a new spare tire, new speakers because the ones in the back are blown out. Some Stabilitrak error code keeps coming on, and the key gets stuck in the ignition, three of four of my doors don’t lock automatically anymore, and, of course, I needed to unclog the windshield sprayer.
I was so frustrated. I was fed up with the table, on the verge of just throwing the whole thing away. I didn’t even want to think about my car, but I couldn’t help it. My inner teenage drama queen came out and I was screaming to the universe, “Why do you hate me so much? Why does my car keep breaking down?” And then, almost with a snap of my fingers, I had a mental breakthrough. My car hasn’t been breaking down. It’s been broken for the past year, and I haven’t done anything to fix it.
Then I thought about my scripts. They’re all on my computer. Dozens and dozens of them. And not just scripts. Stories. Essays. Ideas. They’re not finished, but I can pinpoint exactly what scenes I need to add, what’s lacking in act two, and which character needs more. Everything is there just waiting for me to finish it, but I haven’t touched most of those scripts in years.
I realized that the difference between me and Aaron Sorkin, me and the Scott Brothers, is that they’re never discouraged by the amount of work that needs to be done. They may be overwhelmed at times, sure, but that doesn’t stop them. They keep going until they have a finished product. The thing that holds me back is knowing how much time and effort it’s going to take to get my table, my car, my scripts where they need to be, and what I’m learning now is that there’s just no other option. I just have to buckle down and get it done.
Since my breakthrough, I’ve been able to finish the table and do a few repairs on my car, and I feel more productive than ever, like a huge weight has been lifted and now there’s this empty void that can be filled with something else. I know I’ll probably get overwhelmed when I come across another difficult project, but I also know that it’ll all be worth it in the end.
Ask any successful person their secret to success, and I guarantee they’ll tell you there is no secret. There is no magical approach. You gotta do what you gotta do, and that’s it. It’s a truth – a truth more people need to learn and accept.
Miranda Calamity writes to avoid reality. You can find her at any given coffee shop in Phoenix, face always illuminated by the light emanating from her Macbook. You can find her on Twitter: @MirandaCalamity, Instagram: @MirandaCalamity, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.