Making Shiny and Making Meaning

Slight change of direction in this week’s post, but it still applies to writing and thinking… So I’m going with it. You’re welcome to come along!

The inspiration for this post actually comes out of my work shop. One of the things living there  is a rock tumbler. It’s been running almost constantly for over a year and a half and makes polished stones for display and for free form and primitive jewelry. I feel like I’ve been developing pretty decent skills with it and have gotten some quality stones out. Until recently…

In recent months two changes happened in the opperation1) I started using an aluminum oxide pre polish instead of the silicone carbide I’d been using at that step and 2) I started using a new mix of tumbling rough from one of my suppliers. The quality of the results tanked. Some pieces came out fairly well, but some just didn’t come out at all.

At first I wanted to blame the mix of stones, but no it was all good stuff. Maybe there was a mix of harder and softer stones, that could cause problems… So I re ran with material that I knew was all the same hardness. the same problems happened.

Then I wanted to blame the new pre polish. I switched back to the old standby product and it got a little better, but same problems… by this point I’m actually getting depressed about the whole thing… Maybe I’m just no good at this… No, I’ve gotten good results before, it must be the materials…No I chose good materials, maybe it’s me…

I decided to try one more time with some different stone I’d been saving for a special occasion (which I knew was good). This lot came out great!

Now I had a real head scratcher… Same hardness of stone (all quartz in both), same abrasives, filled properly, used a mix of sizes in each… why two different results?

Then it hit me… The good batch was all random shapes, the material that wasn’t coming out well had a mixture of random pieces and pieces of slabs. And not a few slabs, but half give or take… and it was the slabs that weren’t coming out good. The random shapes would slide around and polish each other, but the slabs were stacking up, not sliding past each other and generally messing with the tumbling action! It explained the difference, they were the ones not polishing and they were the ones not in the batch that came out well.

This was not a problem I’d read about anywhere. I had to find it and solve it myself. Now that I know what’s going on, I can reduce the amount of slabs in the mix, break them up smaller, or better yet try some of the other things I’ve had in mind with them (I hadn’t been pulling them to cut individual stones (got a whole ‘nother stack for that) but maybe I should be more choosy and pull them out!).

I had made a couple mistakes: It didn’t occur to me that the slabs were a problem in the tumbler; I was lazy and didn’t pick out the better slabs (and break up the others); and I allowed myself to blame my materials and be down on myself unfairly.

It was when I actively problem solved and thought that the problem became apparent. It was when I was willing to look at what was really wrong that the solution appeared. It was when I put forth constructive effort to change that things got better.

Now, what does this have to do with writing (or anything else)?

It’s process.

I could have just refused to admit anything was wrong, and nothing would have gotten better.

I could have just run around asking others, and may never have found the answer (never seen it written anywhere till I wrote it!)

I could have just gone on to something else instead of trying to change, and I would have missed out on stuff my wife and I love!

Instead I chose to examine the situation. I was willing to admit that I could be making mistakes. I took considered action and experimented. I observed incorporated the information and acted again.

Sometimes we are not good at something. Sometimes, even when we are good, a project just isn’t working out. We can overcome and achieve!

It is good to seek for information outside. It informs us and leads to potential solutions.

We have to think and act for our selves too… No matter what information or how good the information we get from outside we have to apply it appropriately for ourselves.

In doing this we have to set our egos aside. We have to be willing to be wrong (and admit it when we are wrong). We have to be willing to change ourselves.

We also shouldn’t blame things on ourselves unfairly. The part of my problem that came from the change in polish was due to the new polish and not any internal failing of mine. The correct action was to change the polish back (the thing that I could fix) and not to blame myself for the fact that aluminum isn’t carbon.

Some times we will find things that we just can’t change or fix. If we want to go on we have to work out a way around them. To quote the Serenity Prayer “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.”

I can’t change the fact that there is an ocean between me and Hawaii, but I can find a boat!

The reality is we do have the capacity to learn and to change. If something we’re doing isn’t working fix it! To do that we have to be willing to really look at what’s going on, be honest with ourselves and take action.

Sometimes we need to back off and try something different. Sometimes we just need to sit down and take a break. Some times we need to learn more. But, if we just bang our head against the problem and assign blame we aren’t getting anywhere (and often make it worse).

Know that we have the capacity to be more than we are. Know that we can find solutions (even if that solution is to seek help!). I have that power and so do you…

See you next week.

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