Cathy and I both work from home, which makes a reliable internet connection crucial. A while back, we’d been having some issues, so we called our internet provider who installed a new modem and router that put us on a 5G network. When our smart bulbs started having problems, we. . .well, let’s just say we went through the frustrations that led to the title of this post. Our smart bulbs just weren’t that smart anymore because, as we learned, they need a 2.4G band to operate properly. When we talked to our internet provided, we learned that our new modem/router combines the two bands. In other words, the 2.4 is still there, but the default is the 5. The suggested workaround is to put a towel over the router to impede the range of the 5G, thereby separating it from the 2.4 long enough to reset the bulbs and make them smart again. We’re in the process of trying this. Cathy is taking the bulbs for a ride as I type this, giving them the distance they need to forget they were ever trying to connect to the 5G band. If anyone’s interested, I’ll keep you posted.
On our farm, when I was young, my father was expert with the workaround: a pipe slipped over the handle of a wrench to give the leverage needed to loosen a cranky nut, rags stuffed in the bed of the pickup truck to keep grain from leaking, oil applied to a saw blade to making the cutting easy—all the little tricks to make things work the way they should. I’d be ready to give up, and he’d say, “Nah, there’s always a way.”
And so it is with our writing. The thing that doesn’t work can always work. Sometimes, as with these smart bulbs, it takes a distance, enough distance for us to forget our original intentions so the story, essay, poem, novel, etc. can reconfigure itself. We may think we know where something is heading on the page, when really we don’t know at all. I always say the thing being written is always smarter than we are. It’s just waiting for us to catch up to it. That can take time. We must be patient. Often, if we turn our attention to something new, the unconscious parts of our minds will be working over a problem with the old piece and will eventually present us with a solution. A light bulb, we might say, will turn on and illuminate the shadowy parts of the piece that haven’t been fully lit.
Nothing is as sweet for a writer as a moment of discovery—that moment when the writer fully knows what the piece has known all along. We can try intellectualizing a solution to a writing problem, and sometimes that works. We can switch the point of view, we can occupy a different perspective, but sometimes it’s a matter of forgetting and letting the piece find you.