Twenty-four bucks for a quarter turn

Our washing machine stopped working this week. It wouldn’t proceed to the spin cycle, which meant water didn’t drain. I tried some rudimentary troubleshooting, which led me to believe it was the washer lid switch. I was pretty sure I could figure out how to replace it. Anything more serious, and I’d have to hire someone.

It actually took more time to scoop water from the tub than to replace the part. At least it should have. The ground wire ran to a screw on the underside of the top of the unit, which meant a tight space at an awkward angle. I tried a variety of wrenches and pliers but couldn’t get the grip I needed.

After 30 minutes of frustration, I ran to the hardware store for the right tool. A ratchet socket wrench for $24. I wasn’t thrilled, because that was more than the replacement part, but I wanted to get the project done. Fortunately, it was the perfect fit.

The screw loosened after a quarter turn.

–broken washer lid switch–

And I thought, “a 30-minute round trip and twenty-four bucks for a quarter turn?” And then I concluded, “worth it”. I didn’t have to hire someone, and we could use the washing machine right away. With five people in the house and three dogs, it gets regular use, and we already had some piles.

But Mike, this is a writing blog, not a DIY fix-it website. I guess I better connect this story to writing, eh?

If you’ve spent any time writing, you’ve probably had a similar circumstance. You’re looking to rewrite a sentence and one of the words isn’t quite right. You have a decent vocabulary, so you type and rewrite, type and rewrite. Maybe you even have some tips or tools that usually help. Frustration probably sets in. At some point you grab the thesaurus, searching for the word with the exact nuance you need.

Blue is too common; azure and cerulean are too fancy. Aquamarine throws off the flow of the sentence. And there it is! Cobalt!

Looking back, it took you 30 minutes to find that perfect word. And without further ado, that job is done. It seems so simple in hindsight, and maybe you chastise yourself because you think you wasted time.

So what’s the message for writers, Mike? Well, I have two. First, I believe we are a different breed, and 30 minutes to find the perfect word is a perfectly acceptable use of our time. We should relish the victory that other people are incapable of enjoying. Hopefully, this assuages any guilt you have the next time you go through a similar situation!

But speaking of 30 minutes, it also can result in something like this post, which brings me to my second point. The title for this post “Twenty four bucks for a quarter turn” literally came to me as I completed that turn and the post pretty much wrote itself after that. Thirty minutes can result in a single word or five hundred. Both are valuable. Writing is a funny thing, isn’t it?

Good luck with your writing!


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© Michael Wallevand, May 2023


Have you tapped into something special?

One never knows. A creative project is an emotional roller coaster filled with self-doubt, self-assurance, and second-, triple-, and quadruple-guessing.

Sounds like a Monday.

There are bleak days and dark ones. These are the times when you wonder if your book would better serve as a doorstop than entertainment. I know many writers feel similarly during the course of a project. It could be an external factor, like your day job, piling upon your feelings of self-worth. It could be a matter of life and love. It could be a change in weather. Or it could be that you’ve read that blasted manuscript so many times, the words might as well be in another language.

Unfortunately, those feelings can create powerlessness, creating doubts that are very difficult to overcome. It’s the reason that so many of us have abandoned drafts that we keep promising we’ll return to someday.

We’re often waiting for perfect conditions that never arrive.

When we’re honest with ourselves, truly honest, we recognize that those days are more exception than rule. There are also good days, which are more rule than exception. Even better, we have those moments when it doesn’t feel like work. When things are clicking. When you feel you might – just might – have tapped into something special. And it gives you the power to keep going.

So. I’m writing this for other writers to let them know that sometimes, the universe rewards you and reinforces that you need to keep going. Here are three examples of when this happened to me.

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A Few Words About Word Count

A post in which website marketing makes a surprising entry into Mike’s website about writing fiction.

I’m a senior product manager for legal websites, which means I’m regularly asked for my opinion on writing content. As a professional writer, too, I have a fairly passionate opinion that is desperate eager to be expressed. Fortunately for my colleagues, I’m judicious in editing and in my use of the backspace key.


OK, sometimes.

Ironically, a recurring topic concerns website page lengths. Word count.

A brief tangent about my bias: I like to read and research, and I tend to be verbose. As such, it could be assumed that I fit in the more-is-better camp. However, I’m also pretty good at skimming and scanning, so word count on a webpage is less relevant to me than many readers. The posts I write for this site are probably in the 400-800 word range, anecdotally-speaking.

The topic usually resurfaces when an article is written about search engine marketing or optimization (SEM, SEO). The articles say something like this: “We’ve found that high quality pages are often longer pages.” To many people in the online marketing industry, this is distilled into the inaccurate “more words = higher quality”.

Point One: Correlation and Causation

But that interpretation is not what was said, is it? There might be a correlation between count and quality, but that doesn’t mean there’s a causation. Said simply, having more words doesn’t necessarily impact the quality of a page.

If you’re familiar with the old saying, “All elephants are grey, but not all grey things are elephants,” then you’re already with me.

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