I had a sturdy, hand-held can opener that served me well for over 15 years. Somewhere along the way my husband used it to cut some wire, and thereafter it had to be held at a slight angle to work properly. I had no trouble with that but the lefties in my household couldn’t hold it at the proper angle, and they whined for a new one.
Being human, I refused to let go of my can opener. It was pretty, functional, and completely dependable—for me. For years I continued to hold on to it, preferring the occasional whine to throwing away a perfectly good tool. This Spring, however, I fell prey to fear and uncertainty. I succumbed to self-doubt, stepped out of my comfort zone, bought a new can opener, and after trying out the new one for a few days, I put the old one in the garbage.
Why did I do it? Because my teenage daughter accused me of being a hoarder. If you’ve seen the show on A&E called Hoarders, you know that’s not a good thing to be. Hoarders hang on to everything, even trash. Their homes become hazards instead of havens. I did not want that to happen. So I gave up the “worthless” can opener for the sake of saving my family from ruin.
And now I’m sorry. That new can opener worked great for a few weeks, and then it started misbehaving. Small cans gave me big problems; big cans, too. Yesterday, I had to pry the lid off a can of tomato sauce with a knife and ended up with half the sauce on me instead of in the chili. The beans had to be scraped out of the can with a spoon because I couldn’t get the lid loose enough to pour them out.
So what’s my point?
We all have “tools” that work well for us. Other people can recommend what works best for them, or tell us about the latest trends and newest products to make life easier and our writing better. What they say may be true for them, and possibly could help us. But sometimes what’s best for one person isn’t the best for everyone. Change isn’t always for the better, and learning to discern the difference between what we are doing wrong and what works best for us is crucial.
Never change what you are doing simply because someone else tells you there’s a better way. Don’t cave in to pressure from people who see things differently. Even when there appears to be a logical reason to make the change, trust your feelings. At the very least, hang on to that old can opener until you’re sure the new one is right for you.
Whose advice do you listen to regarding your writing? How likely are you to make changes in a manuscript based on someone else’s opinion? Do you worry about being old-fashioned, inflexible, or a “hoarder?” What type of can opener works best for you?