Writers in the Storm

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March 6, 2013

3 Writing Lessons Learned from a Robotic Vacuum

RoboticVaccuumBy Laura Drake

About ten years ago, I had back surgery. After I healed, I went back to Domestic Goddess duties, but found I couldn’t vacuum anymore.

Something about the pushing and pulling killed my back. So I informed Alpha Dog (did I mention he’s also Texan?) that this duty would have to fall to him.

He didn’t disagree, but less than a week later, we had a delivery from the UPS guy. A top-of-the-line robotic vacuum. Alpha Dog demonstrated it like a kid with the hottest new Christmas toy. I dubbed her, “Rosie,” after the robot in The Jetsons (Yeah, I’m old.)

I was lying in bed this week, laid up by foot surgery, listening to Rosie do her thing. We could all learn some important things about writing from her!

Top 3 Lessons I Learned from My Robotic Vacuum:

1. Make a Plan.

Rosie actually has a computer chip that allows her to map out the room as she goes. Every time, around, she gets smarter, and more efficient, adjusting the plan for the next time.

We all have a writing process, even if you’re on your first book, and still discovering what it is. Don’t be afraid to adjust the plan, or change it if you find a better way. Keep your eyes open. Even if this is your thirty-second book, try new things. You may find one little tip that will help with the thirty-third.

2. Mistakes aren’t failure; they’re an opportunity to learn.

When Rosie bumps into a corner, or some piece of furniture that wasn’t there last time, she stops, backs up, turns a few degrees and tries again. If she hits it again, she turns a bit more. Eventually she gets out of the corner, or around the obstruction, and that area is clean. She’s done her job.

She doesn’t sulk, she doesn’t whine, she doesn’t give up. She keeps trying until she succeeds.

3. Don’t stop til the job is done, or your dust bin is full.

When she finishes vacuuming, she turns off her sucking mechanism (I don’t know, what do you call it?) sings a chirpy 7-note song, and returns to her station to recharge. I love that little song. It sounds like how I feel when I type “The End.”

To succeed, first you have to finish.

I learned all that from a dumb little machine and the floors are clean, too!

Should I chalk this up to really good pain meds, or have you also had epiphanies while (passively) cleaning? Have you ever learned anything from an appliance?


0 comments on “3 Writing Lessons Learned from a Robotic Vacuum”

  1. Laura, my first reaction is ... what's with WITS and feet? Second ... if Alpha man had not had to take over the chore, do you think he would have bought you Rosie?

    I think I liked Debra Winger's character in Terms of Endearment when she tells her mother that the spin cycle on the washer is about the only thrill she has gotten lately 🙂 After that, I began to look at the old washer as more than just a gizmo to clean clothes !!

    1. Heck, Florence, if a man somewhere hadn't had to vacuum, the darned thing wouldn't have been invented to begin with, dontcha think?

    2. Florence, we just all run so hard through life, our feet get thrashed! (OK, that's a complete fabrication - I have no idea what the foot thing is...only that Orly and I have so far avoided it. 🙂 )

  2. I suspect this wouldn't be the first time good pain meds have made their way into good writing.

    As artists, we tend to stay far away from anything mechanical. "Mechanical." It's even a bad word in art.

    Except, as you point out, when it's not. Habit. Persistence. Machines have it all over humans in those areas.

    I take my lessons where I can get 'em.

      1. Actually a Christmas gift from our children. But I kept the bag changed and kept it charged. We used to watch it and laugh as it was running. Doesn't take much to amuse old folks.
        The cat finally met something it couldn't dominate.

  3. Laura, I had to stop and read your post, knowing you'd have pearls of wisdom for me. I love this way of viewing an every day object from a unique perspective, one that yields much deeper and meaningful insights. Thanks for a great start to my day.

  4. This post really made me smile and think. Thanks! Come to think of it, I learned a very important lesson from an appliance: my toaster. If it starts smoking, unplug it. When I feel stressed and like I'm about to explode, I need to back off or, as they say, "unplug." 🙂

    1. Oh, love it! Another appliance analogy! I shudder though, when Jenny of the "Undie Chronicles" wakes up...we could drift into appliances of a whole different kind!

      1. Hey now! Just because we find Undies to be HILARIOUS doesn't mean I run posts about sketchy appliances.

        Although there was a lot of talk on More Cowbell one day about "BOBs"... (Battery-operated boyfriends) But that was in the comments. We run a *family* blog!

  5. Had to laugh, Laura. Not at the analogy which is right on. 🙂 Recently hubby suggested that he might buy a Rosie because I'm Houston for 3 mo.s at a time taking care of our son. As you can imagine the dust bunnies even multiply on the carpet. He'd NEVER suggest a Rosie under normal circumstances. I told him to forget the auto vac and practice some aerobics by pushing the vacuum once a week. 🙂

  6. The post, Laura, and the comments today are hilarious. And you made great connections to writing. I did have a moment of sadness when you described Rosie getting stuck in a corner. Made me think of our old puppy. Scout, a Jack Russell, forgets where she is, and unlike Rosie, can't maneuver her way out. When I'm here and see her, I tap her gently on the rear. She glances up as if to say, "Oh, thanks." Brain Pills are helping. She doesn't get stuck as much as she used to.

    1. Hey, Marsha, we'll all end up, one day, bumping into corners. Hopefully we'll have someone who loves us, tapping us on the butt. You're a good mom!

  7. I love this blog post...and not just because I'm old enough to get the Rosie reference! 😉

    I especially agree with #2 (something I try to drill into my kids' heads each and every day).

    Personally, of the three lessons, #1 is my weak area. I'm not sure my writing 'process/plan' is improving or simply ever-changing...LOL. But, I'm still having fun, so that counts for something, right?

    1. Jamie, are you kidding? That is EVERYTHING!!! If you don't have fun doing it, how could you keep going until you made your goal! If this isn't fun, STOP - and find something you like better! Life is too short...

  8. LOL, Laura! I love this post -- funny and, yet, so true ;).
    You've also made me want to get one of these vacuuming things...
    Now, if only there were something like it that dusted...and did laundry!!

    1. Marilyn, I agree! I don't mind laundry - I'm still tickled that the washer and dryer are in the garage, and I don't have to put quarters in them!

      Dusting is my nemisis. Seems so hopeless. I asked Alpha dog for a robotic duster, but he said until they have a flying robot, I'm out of luck. Dang it.

    1. Romeo - I love that! Never ocurred to me to name it a man's name. I've never seen a man vacuum! No offense to any men - remember, I'm married to Alpha Dog.

  9. Love your sense of humor, Laura. And the common tendency to give human emotions to robots. Remember CP3O, anyone? No too long ago, I read a science article in the LA Times that claimed computers will be smarter than us in a very short while. So in the future, we may be doing the vacuuming, while our robots are busy writing the romances. But their stories might be a little too "mechanical," as one of your readers suggested.

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