Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Day Ten: Killed It

Besides my errant pursuit of rabbit trails yesterday, there was another reason the sound of my grinding away at that paper shredder came to an abrupt halt: I think I killed it.

Other than proof that, see, I was working hard on this genealogical Fall Cleaning project, having the contraption fail on me was actually an inconvenient event. Around our neighborhood, today is our biweekly recycling pick-up day, and I wanted to have the whole of that paper mountain shredded and out at the curb. By the time the thing quit on me yesterday afternoon, I was far from finished.

There were three options at the root of my dilemma. First was that the thing needed a good oiling. After all, I had been working it nonstop for quite some time. Second, possibly owing to the same cause, was that the machine had overheated and simply needed to cool its engine for a while. Third was a problem of an entirely different type: the shredder was eligible for antique status and had simply met its demise.

Always one to stick to the middle ground, I cheered for the second choice.

Meanwhile, I couldn't just sit around and wait for the verdict. The shredder's engine could cool, but I needed to jump to another project. While the cleanup project was on hold, my brain was working on ideas in the background.

I've learned a long time ago that down time is not always the problem it seems to be. I've long been fascinated by the study of creative thinking, and remember stories of inventive people who, though stymied with a problem which they had to set aside for lack of progress, came up with a breakthrough while in their sleep, or taking a shower, or, in one case, simply stepping off the bus on the way home from work.

As it turned out, even my momentary pause—as I waited for the shredder to take its break—turned out to be productive. While attending to other tasks, my eyes lit on just the thing to use to fill in those empty bottom drawers in my reclaimed file cabinet: those old tax records that need to be saved, "just in case." That certainly qualifies as something I won't be consulting on a frequent basis, yet something heavy enough—and definitely something that needs to find a home to sit in. Right now, those old records are just taking up space on a shelf in a closet, but I'm liking the idea of moving them to the bottom drawer of my file cabinet.

Meanwhile, the paper shredder's motor having cooled down, I tentatively ran a few more sheets through, and was relieved to see that it was back to its usual grinding ways. Not having learned my lesson, I plowed through almost the rest of my paper mountain when the same symptom showed up again.

So close, yet so far away from my goal, I once again had to let the decrepit thing go through its paces. Don't get your hopes up for any mental breakthroughs on this break, though. I took a close look at the problem and realized that, this time, there was a bit of paper which seemed stuck in the wrong place. With a little work, it was loose again, and the task was finally completed.

With a huge garbage sack of shredded paper out at the curb for pickup before dawn this morning, it was gratifying to know I had accomplished yet another small part of the project. It's worth cheering myself on, even for these little steps. Some people just need the encouragement, and I'm willing to admit I'm one of those people.

And the paper shredder? Apparently, I hadn't killed it, after all—though I did slay an entire paper mountain in (almost) one swoop. What I did "kill," though, was one of those nagging problems that sit in the back of the mind, pestering my subconscious for an answer. For the issue of what to place in that bottom drawer of the file cabinet—something heavy, but not something I'd need to lug out of hiding on a frequent basis—I "killed" the problem with an answer that mentally percolated behind the scenes until my brain had some down time for processing.    


  1. I put too thick of papers in mine and it overheats...I should have bought an industrial model...you should have too:)

    1. That'll be my next purchase! Industrial strength!


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