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“Isn’t it wonderful; if you have a few problems, you have trouble, but if you have a whole lot of problems, they start solving each other.” – H. Beam Piper, Ministry of Disturbance
Problems? We all have problems today. Enough problems that this aphorism (which Piper used some variant of in several stories) begins to apply. If you have enough problems you can put them together to start solving themselves. It is a principle I have cheerfully, indeed ruthlessly, applied since my early teens when I first came across it in one of Piper’s sci-fi novels.
Let me use one recent example from my own life. On March 1, I was facing deadline problems. Then my favorite editor asked me to submit two new book proposals. Those had to be submitted before I turned in my current book – which I already lacked time to complete.
My success as a writer comes from following two principles: 1. Always complete every project on time and within word count. 2. Never say no when invited to write a new book when offered appropriate compensation.
I then had a new problem. I worked for an airline and on March 12 was let go. Talk about a big problem. Add in that a week later, Harris and Galveston Counties told everyone to stay home. I could not really do job hunting.
Here is where Piper’s Problem Principle kicks in. Problems 1 and 2 were solved by Problems 3 and 4. Losing the day job gave me the time I did not have to write the book proposals and finish the book. And it looks like I cannot do much else (like job hunting.) Having run the numbers, I discovered if I get the book done by the end of April (the proposals are completed) my income will equal what I would have gotten from the day job through then. Throw in a whopping tax refund and I have enough money to make it through the end of May if I spend like a drunken sailor and through the end of June if I watch my money.
Of course, if I do not get a new job by the end of June that will be a new problem. Hopefully another problem will come along by then, so I can do the mutual problem annihilation trick one more time. Always has so far.
Got problems? See if you can start getting them to solve each other.Published in