Efficiency

After two months of drenching rains, falling trees, landslides, power outages and days long forced confinement life is slowly regaining a sense of normalcy. In my case that means predictable routine. For instance, it’s Sunday so, predictably, my husband is sitting in the living room watching bad movies. He loves movies, and so do I, but he’ll watch any movie, no matter how awful, while I tend to be more selective. Even he admits I’m better at picking out movies to watch than he is.

When my husband and I first started dating one of the first things he noticed about me was my love of ritual as he called it. I hadn’t thought about it quite that way before, but when I did I had to laugh. Properly defined ritual refers to religious ceremonies, but if I’m honest, I have to admit that I adhere to my daily/weekly/monthly routines with a near religious devotion.

When I was a kid I saw a movie called Cheaper by the Dozen starring Clifton Webb and Myrna Loy. In this early version of the story the father, Frank Gilbreth, Jr. was a time-motion study and efficiency expert. I watched this movie several times over the years because I was fascinated by the idea of applying his principles of efficiency to every day life. I wanted to be an efficiency expert when I grew up.

Officially, I’m a high school graduate with some community college credits, but no degree. I could never be hired as an efficiency expert. But, the desire to conduct both my personal and business life with the greatest efficiency has never left me. And I think, in my amateurish way, I’ve done all right. Almost every supervisor I’ve ever worked with has complimented my efficiency. I get things done in half the time with 98% accuracy.

Of course, there are downsides to this need for predictable routine and efficiency. For one thing, I don’t have a spontaneous bone in my body, which often drives my husband nuts. He’s the opposite, you see. It takes a week of thoughtful planning before I pack my suitcase. He packs 5 minutes before we leave. He loves last minute invitations to a party, or other event. I need at least a week to decide if the event while fit into my schedule. Okay, I can do it in a day, but I prefer more time.

It also means that in writing and reading and everyday communications I get annoyed with extraneous verbiage. Why say in 20 words what can easily be said in 10? If I ask you what time it is, please don’t tell me how to build a clock.

I also don’t like books that are heavy on description. It’s not efficient. Not for me as a reader or as a writer. I know what a tapestry rug looks like. Please don’t describe it’s weft and warp. Do you really need to describe every stick of furniture in the room the protagonist just entered? For the third time? I ran across this once. The author insisted on describing an antique stuffed room, in detail, every time someone walked into it. After reading about the cherry wood Chippendale desk for the third time, I tossed the book across the room. And I’ve never picked up another of that author’s books since.

Description is necessary. Our characters can’t be floating around in empty space. But, know when to stop. And know what readers prefer in the genre you are writing in. If you write commercial mainstream fiction with stories based in the modern world then minimal to medium amounts of description are all that’s needed. If you write fantasy or science fiction then you need more description. But, that’s not a license to go crazy. Even in these genres you will most likely include settings and items that are familiar to us all. You may have trees with pink leaves and green flowers, but they are still leaves and flowers. Describe in depth only those things that can’t be easily visualized by your readers.

On the other hand, there are people out there who love description. Lots and lots of description. And that’s okay because there are writers who love filling their books with loads of it. To each his own.

For me, a person who loves efficiency, less is more.

 

Author: dwkavanaugh

I live and write in the Santa Cruz Mountains with my husband, dogs Rosie and Belle, and the two feral cats that came with the cabin.

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