Half the Deed


I fixed the zippers on three pairs of pants yesterday, which had previously been held up by safety pins. (Possibly too much information, I know.) For months, I had contemplated picking up a zipper repair kit at Jo-Ann Fabrics. I recalled that my mom used to have such kits, but I didn’t know if they even existed anymore. When I finally made it to the fabric store, the nice lady directed me to a whole bunch of different kinds.

Once I had the kit at home, I was eager to try it. It’s not easy to take a zipper apart and put on a new slider, but I did it, and now I have three almost-new pairs of pants in my closet.

This gratifying experience reminded me of a favorite sentence in my classroom text, Wheelock’s Latin. In one of his odes, Horace wrote Dimidium facti, qui coepit, habet, which means He who begins has half the deed. I tell my students that tackling their translations and homework can be a formidable obstacle. Just open the book, I say, and gather some paper and a pencil. Once you’re sitting there with the book in front of you, starting your homework won’t be so hard. Don’t worry about finishing the task, just get started.

Another example is writing. We think we have to have an idea or know what we’re going to write. I found when I was writing Missing that all I needed to do was open the document. I may have been stalled for awhile, thinking I had to have to know ahead of time what I was going to say. Once I opened the document, though, and started browsing through it, I’d always find something to edit and add to, and then a couple of hours of writing would ensue.

Open the document. Make the phone call. Get out your textbook. Buy the zipper kit. Incipe, says Horace. Begin.

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