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Saturday, January 25, 2014

Light at the End of the Tunnel

Salad Bowl Saturday welcomes author Catherine Dilts today. Her post will resonate with many of our readers as she addresses the issues of change--forced or unforced. ~ Jim


My employer decided to renovate a section of our twenty-year-old building. This was not just a fresh paint and carpet project. We’re talking expanding the chemical testing lab, tearing out stairwells, and cutting windows into the outside walls.

Employees affected by the remodeling went through stages. Anger that we were not included in the planning. Denial, as we ignored deadlines to clean out our filing cabinets for the move. Despair, when we had to vacate our roomy section of the building and occupy a conference room for ten weeks. All nine of us. Adding insult to injury, we could hear the construction noise of drills and hammers incessantly grinding and pounding.

Part of the upset was the fear that we would be relegated to the basement, like Milton in the movie Office Space. Once that rumor was dispelled, new ones raged about the cubicles not having walls, or being the size of hamster cages. 

With two weeks left, we could finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. We entered the acceptance stage. The conference room at times had a party atmosphere. Employees formerly separated by cubicle walls now knew each other. We shared homemade cookies, fresh antelope sausage, candy and cupcakes.

At last, we moved into our new digs. After a decade in the old office, the change was stunning. Everything was fresh and clean. No more pinkish fuzzy cubicle walls or stolen-from-the-engineering-department chairs. For the first time ever, I had an office chair that fit. My feet no longer dangled inches above the floor. It seems funny now that a positive change caused us so much anxiety.  

I have experienced upheaval in my writing life, as a critique group disbanded, or when I realized the book I’d invested three years of heart and soul into just wasn’t going to work. There have been seasons when I had to put aside writing ambitions in order to deal with “real” life. I expected to have trouble coping with these difficult times. 

What I didn’t expect was that positive changes in my writing life made for challenging adjustments, too. Once I achieved the goal of publication, deadlines replaced a leisurely creative pace. I faced brand new concerns of whether I would sell through my advance or get good reviews. I had learned to cope with positive change at work. Now I needed to apply those lessons to my writing life. 

Lesson One: Fresh Paint Stinks. But once it dries, the room looks a whole lot better. Change rarely comes without disruption and discomfort. Deal with changes in your writing life with confidence that the end result will be an improvement.  

Lesson Two: Don’t Listen to Rumors. Predictions of impending doom in the volatile publishing world circulate every few months. Pessimism among writers abounds. If it was easy, everyone would be published, but on the other hand, if it was impossible, there would never be new authors in magazines or on bookshelves.  

Lesson Three: Bring Cookies.  Having a gracious attitude gets you farther than crankiness and whining.

I’m more of a goal oriented rather than a smell the roses personality, but I’m learning. After my workplace renovation, it dawned on me that nothing in my career changed. I am doing the same work, just in a new environment. The light at the end of my writing tunnel is not publication. It’s the realization that the writing journey itself is the goal. 
With permission of
Kari L. Vollaire, Artsy Phartsy Design
To Catherine Dilts, rock shops are like geodes – both contain amazing treasures hidden inside their plain-as-dirt exteriors. Publishers Weekly calls her novel Stone Cold Dead – A Rock Shop Mystery, an “enjoyable debut,” and that “readers will look forward to seeing more of this endearing and strong protagonist.”

Catherine works as an environmental scientist, and plays at heirloom vegetable gardening, camping, and fishing. She has published short fiction in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. Visit her at


Jim Jackson said...

The old saw goes something like "whenever a door closes, a new one opens." I haven't found the 1-1 reciprocity, but I have discovered that if I keep myself open to new ideas and experiences and opportunities, they arise much more frequently than when I spend my time moaning about what no longer is.

Thanks for the entertaining approach to reminding me of that fact.

And, if you don't mind, I'll try out one of your cyber-cookies. They look good.

~ Jim

Gloria Alden said...

Catherine, I'm glad the new office worked for you. For me the move from a small elementary school to a new mega elementary school was not pleasant. It wasn't that the new teachers I met didn't become friends, it was the whole bit of changing classes so I had many, many students instead of one class throughout the year of 20 to 25 students. I missed teaching them all subjects and interweaving them into each other.

However, there have been many other upsets in my life that have not only made me stronger, but made be a better writer; the death of a son, the ending of a long marriage, the move from a house I loved to an old house, the loss of parents, a granddaughter, a brother, and friends. In spite of all this, I do remain positive after a period of grieving.

I also love gardening and camping, Catherine - tent camping and believe in protecting the environment.

Warren Bull said...

There is an old saying I hate: Everything happens for the best. It is patently false. War is not the best for innocent civilians. On the other hand, when we do the best from what we're given, that is a strengthening and powerful experience.

Catherine Dilts said...

Change isn't always pleasant, and the end results aren't always for the best. My lesson has been learning to wait for those results before deciding if it was a beneficial change or not. I appreciate the profound comments from everyone. And Gloria, I can't wait for gardening season to begin - I'm already thumbing through the seed catalogs.