In Which I Finally Cut Some Wood

I’m procrastinating, which is out of character. I’m a man of action; once I settle on a project, I move methodically and get it done. But a week passes and I find myself busy with small distractions. I clean the garage—which is helpful, but not essential. I review the plans and spend too much time solving small problems. I build some sawhorses; I debate the merits of different kinds of screws. I page through my first issue of Wooden Boat magazine.

This could go on forever—and for some aspiring boat builders, it does. I sometimes observe them chatting on the various boat building forums, forever debating the merits of one plan over another, or spending countless hours making models and computer drawings. These can be useful activities, but I strongly suspect that they can become delaying tactics. In an email exchange, Pete Stevenson offered this sage advice: “I read the boating magazines as little as possible, because if you do, you’ll never leave the dock (which is why, maybe, so few boats do).” Eventually, you have to make a commitment, spend some money, and get sawdust in your hair.

Intuitively, I know that why I’m putting off the work of building. Once I start, a project three decades in the making will no longer be a fantasy; it will be fact. The boat, which is so flawless in my mind’s eye, will take real shape and will, inevitably, bring some measure of frustration and disappointment. “How’s the boat coming,” Brian asks me when I stop by the lumberyard. “Great,” I say. “I haven’t started yet, so I haven’t made a single mistake.” That got a big laugh, but I knew, the second I said it, that I was speaking truth.

About a week later I am sitting in my office (the little one pictured, where I work as a writer) doing whatever I needed to do at the moment—probably writing an email or paying some bills. I’m bored and, looking for a brief distraction, I pull a boat building book of the shelf—I have a growing collection—and randomly open pages.  It’s a warm spring day and the sun is just breaking through the clouds. Suddenly, without premeditation, I decide that I’ve waited long enough. It’s time to start. Now.

I put down the book, push back my office chair, and walk to the large detached garage just a few paces away, open up the plans, grab a long piece of pine and adjust the angle on my circular saw. It’s a small first step—and out of sequence—but I decide to break the ice by ripping eight 16 foot long stringers from a piece of pine. These will be used later when I join the bottom panels to the hull. It’s not hard—just a lot of noise and a lot of sawdust. A half hour later, my ears ringing from the saw’s whine (I should use earplugs, I remind myself) I step back knowing that I have, finally, taken the first step, and that, one way or another, I will get it done.

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