I was never one for chores. Especially as a kid, there was no getting me to do anything. My trademark was using literal interpretations to be a pain in the ass. My mom would ask me to take out the trash, and begrudgingly I would. About a half hour later, my mom would yell for me and I would come stomping out of my room like I had no idea what was going on.
“Why isn’t there a trash bag in the garbage can?” she would ask. Bless her for being so patient with me.
“You asked me to take the trash out, not to put a bag back in.”
My parents have a lot of those stories. Eventually my dad got fed up with it, sat me down, and said “Don’t play stupid. You know what you need to do.”
I was a kid, but I remember that moment really well. I don’t think my dad meant for me to take it so seriously. I am also not sure that he knows how much that memory has helped me get through some tough work.
During college, it took me forever to write papers. I had been able to coast on my writing skills for almost all of my life, so much so that I didn’t even take writing as a craft seriously until about senior year. I would sit down to write a paper and I would say “I’m not sure exactly what the professor wants me to write.”, then I would drop the assignment until the day before it was due, and then I would complete the entire thing in one or two sittings.
More recently, at my job as a technical writer/information architect, I have been handed projects and thought “I’m not sure how to edit this CSS.” and so I would put the project on the back-burner until it was getting close to a time where I would need to meet with the client and discuss the project.
What’s happening here? In my dad’s words, I’m playing stupid.
We are all guilty of it. It is an excuse not to seriously think about a problem, a way to blow things off. But really, we know. We know exactly how to fix a problem. Even more obvious, we know how to find out how to fix a problem. In an age where things like Google exist, there is no excuse for not learning how to do something.
As a writer, I can not tell you how many times I have stopped writing a piece because “I’m not sure where it is going.” or “I don’t think the characters are collaborating well.” And yes, those are serious issues in writing. Happens all the time to the best of us. But that is never an excuse to stop. Like childhood me, I never take the next step. I just put the projects down.
If you’re like me, you feel bad at the end of the day when you know you have given up on something. If you’re not like me and you sleep guilt free, even though you didn’t do what you know you should, I hope that you’ll still take this to heart.
Don’t play stupid. You know what you need to do. Do it.