I brought an umbrella with me to Scotland. This seemed sensible at the time. I was packing for my semester abroad and Scotland was sort of rainy, wasn't it?
It did, in fact, "rain" on one of my first nights in Glasgow, but this wasn't a New York rain. In New York, it once rained so hard—and so sideways—on a fifteen-minute walk to work that I had to change into my gym clothes despite the large, black umbrella, the trench coat, the rain pants, and the galoshes.
That night in Scotland, I felt like a houseplant getting misted with an atomizer. Still, out came the big, black New York umbrella. It was the only umbrella in sight, but I hate getting droplets on my glasses. In an instant, however, another American student—who had already been in town half a year—pressed the umbrella down like he was hiding contraband from the guards. I'd crossed some kind of a line.
"You don't need that," he hissed. "You just need one of these." He gestured at his hoodie, and I immediately saw the wisdom in his suggestion. Cool and misty, with highs in the 60s during the summer and lows in the mid-30s in the depths of winter, Glasgow doesn't tend toward complicated, variable, and endlessly punishing weather like New York. You approach New York weather strategically. In Glasgow, you don't have to think about it. A good, thick hoodie with a kangaroo pocket will ensure your comfort 95 percent of the time. Throw that hood up and forget about it.
Hoodie advice doesn't complicate things. It doesn't even simplify them. It eliminates tangles, slicing right through the Gordian knot. Instead of promising faster progress along the Hero's Journey, hoodie advice says hey buddy, the shop around the corners sells perfectly good magic elixir—no threshold, trials, or atonement required. Your tribe will be grateful for the boon, and you'll never have to tell them you found it without transfiguring yourself or overcoming any other spiritual inconveniences.
Douglas Adams understood hoodie advice. In The Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy, he wrote:
A towel...is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have. Partly it has great practical value. You can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapors; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a miniraft down the slow heavy River Moth; wet it for use in hand-to-hand-combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (such a mind-boggingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can't see it, it can't see you); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.
It's ironic how creative people making creative things refuse to approach the process itself creatively. Instead of buying a new tool or book or piece of software, think about how you might proceed using only what you have at hand, MacGyver-style. If you're stuck on a tricky problem, ask yourself: Is doing this part even necessary? If I skip it completely, can I still get where I'm going? If the answer is even kind of yes, go for it—you can always fill in the blanks later if necessary.
Do whatever it takes to keep moving, to get to the ending, an ending, because it's always just another draft. Revising is infinitely easier than vising. Grab a towel and get to work.