Down in a Hole

The lake cabin where I take D. fishing has a leaking water pipe, and to get to the valve, the plumber who is going to fix the thing needs a hole large enough for him to get down into and about three-and-a-half feet deep.

My dad, knowing I have the summer off, tasked me with digging the thing.

Soon after my dad gave me the task, about three weeks ago, I found out my father-in-law, R.B., has a gasoline-powered auger. R.B. volunteered to help me out, but even knowing I would be backed by a machine and R.B.'s know-how, I put off digging the hole until this morning.

Once R.B. surveyed the ground, he decided we could do without the auger and busted out two tiling spades, a shovel, and a posthole digger, and we got to work. It took all of seven minutes before my hat was soaked through with sweat and I was winded, but R.B. was an animal with the tiling spade, and made me feel bad for wanting to take a break, and so I did my best to keep up with him.

I had figured we'd spend a good three or four hours on the hole, but thanks to R.B., we finished in just under two.

Here's the Hole:

My shoes:

My poor Cubs hat, which I'm sure my wife is going to slip into the trash can while I sleep:

And R.B., cleaning the tools with the neighbor's hose:

And now, since this blog is primarily concerned with writing, I want to say a few things about digging a hole and putting words on the blank page. I've come across author interviews in which people compare writing to a "job," and recently, a very successful novelist colleague of mine told me that he treats writing a novel as a job like any other, one where you have to show up for X number of hours each day. I enjoy the blue-collar sentiment of this outlook. I mean, who isn't up for a little work. But my problem with the analogy is that writing for X number of hours so infrequently leads to a big, tangible, muddy hole in the ground.

Like everybody else, I've worked a lot of jobs, and a lot of blue-collar jobs: in a steel factory, as a pallet repairman at a pig plant, etc. And though the work was physically exhausting, at the end of the day, I had stacks of repaired pallets piled all around me; I'd filled boxes with hot-coiled springs.

I'm starting to get more comfortable with feeling rewarded after a few hours' writing by finding one decent sentence sentence on the page, or, gasp, a whole pararaph. But I'm still always wanting something like those pallets and springs after a day of writing: a stack of perfect pages. I mean, sometimes it's really hard to compare one decent sentence with that muddy hole in the ground, and with going home after a few hours, blisters on the palms of your hands, your clothes streaked with mud and soaked with sweat, your body thankful just to be sitting.

1 comment:

Writing Blind said...

This is a perfect description of the writing process. Sometimes I spend whole days staring down into that hole, wondering how to fill it back in again.