Solution Blindness

imageDespite buying a house pre-wired for recessed in-ceiling surround sound speakers, my Code Monkey and I have spent the last year listening to all our movies and music through tinny TV speakers cranked up as high as they will go. Last week, Monkey grew tired of this situation and arranged for professionals to move us into an audio future. The young men responsible for this transition have been in my living room all day, drilling holes and pulling wires through the walls.

One of the technicians had some trouble with the shelf in the “technology cupboard”. This shelf, held in place with four pegs that stick into pre-drilled holes in the sides of the cupboard, suddenly fell as he fiddled inside the cupboard. It dumped all its gadgets — router, wifi doodad, PS3, backup hard drive, etc — including a UPS (Uninterrupted Power Source) which weighs a ton. From my work space in the dining room, I could hear him re-situating the shelf and replacing the items over and over only to have it fall down again mid-way through the process each time. He managed to avoid the strings of profanity I would have spouted, but I could sense his rising frustration.

Finally, taking pity on him (and fearing for the technology unceremoniously clattering to the floor every few minutes), I went over to see if I could help. It soon become apparent that some of the pre-drilled holes (specifically, the ones he had chosen to use) had lost their shape. Under the weight of the shelf, the pegs quickly tilted and slid out. Holes at a slightly lower level were undamaged and, once put to use, held the pegs and the shelf perfectly.

The whole situation was a perfect example of getting too close to a problem. This guy, clearly intelligent and capable of critical thinking, simply couldn’t “see” the solution that was sitting right there in front of him. I suspect his emotions — embarrassment, frustration, and concern that I not like him throwing our expensive gadgets around — payed a large part in blinding him to the very simple solution.

The same happens with my writing. I get too close to a story, so emotionally invested in it that I often struggle to solve the problems that crop up. I can’t see basic GPS (grammar/punctuation/spelling) errors. I don’t notice a character putting down the same item in two different paragraphs without ever picking it up in between. I write myself into dead ends in the plot or give one character contradictory attributes. I’ve even given multiple characters in a single short story identical names without realizing it.

My solution is similar to how we solved the shelving problem this morning. I get someone else involved. My Code Monkey rocks some super [AMAZING AND AWESOMESAUCE*] creative writing skills. He’s my first defense against insidious spelling mistakes and convoluted plot holes. I also participate in a couple of great writing groups where I can workshop my finished pieces. The simple things that slip by me no matter how carefully I comb through my own writing continue to surprise me, and I am eternally grateful that my Monkey and my writing friends have got my back.

Thanks to my beta readers, I can overcome my own solution blindness, and thanks to our audio technician’s willingness to let me lend a hand, our new sound system is safely installed and shelved.

[*evidence of Code Monkey fixing a glaring mistake]

Do you experience solution blindness in your writing? In your life?

What’s your best example and who helped you solve it?


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