I'm a "problem solver" person. I'm aways proud when I discover a problem before other people do, I feel a compulsion to try to solve problems, and I take great pride when I succeed. One of the best managers I ever worked for taught me to try to control my problem solving urges. He made me realize that I didn't own every problem I discovered, and that I needed to decide what to solve and what to ignore.
Life is full of problems, so I often think about this manager's advice. I've been thinking about it a lot, recently. Here's why:
I joined the Critters website to find a few dedicated readers who would read and critique my unpublished novel. I feel that every person who volunteers to give me a read is precious to me. I have not turned down a "request to read" yet.
Now generally, here's how it works. A "Critter" volunteers, so you send him a doc file of the book (whatever format the reader prefers) and they read it, then they comment. One of the "Critters" who responded to my request threw me an amazing challenge about format: he wants to read the entire book on his iPod, so could I cut the book up into separate 4,000 byte pieces, suitable for a screen with about a 30 character width?
The phrase "go to hell" comes to mind here, but I said, oh, hey, a problem, what can I do? I'm sympathetic to this person's request anyway, because I read books on my PDA.
By now I've formatted 144 chunks of the book (about half) for this person. I've been automating the process, which involves several steps, since I have to add paragraph separators, simplify the character set, enforce 30 character margins, and do the file splitting. It's been enough work that my old manager's advice about problem solving has been ricocheting through my brain.
But I'm happy now, I'm starting to get comments back from this fellow, and they've been excellent, worth the effort.