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Filling Space: How A Modern Home Sparked “Little House on the Prairie”

My family in Burr Oak, Iowa, one of several stops on the trip. Costumes were courtesy of our generous tour guide.

This year my family’s summer vacation was a departure from the more standard trips we’ve taken in the past like going to the mountains or the beach. We took our first family road trip and it was themed around the life and stories from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House series of books (and TV show).

Over nine days we stayed or travelled through eight states, logged a little over 4,200 miles and spent a cozy 40 hours in the van together. It actually wasn’t as bad as it sounds but somewhere in South Dakota I remember thinking I was ready to get home but was still about 15 hours away from Nashville.

Little House. Huge Franchise.
The Little House franchise is vast. The books were almost an instant hit since the first one was published in 1932. The books are popular worldwide (Japan, in particular, loves them I discovered) and have been translated in 40 languages. The TV show that came out in the 1970s and 80s helped propel the franchise further and it’s still on TV today.

It’s Never Too Late
What a lot of people don’t know, however, is that Laura Ingalls Wilder was 65 years old when the first book was published. In fact, she never had anything published until she was  44 years old and that was a contribution to the Missouri Ruralist newspaper. She didn’t write her first book until her 50s and of course she struck gold with what would be the first book of the Little House series, in her mid-60s.

Convenience and Space
What I learned on my trip besides the things above is that there was a single event that sparked the writing of the books: moving to a new house. Laura’s daughter, Rose, had an English style home built for her mom and dad and as it turns out she was a little bit pushy. She was a writer herself and had been encouraging her mom to write more of her stories from her childhood. Rose urged her parents to move a mile down the road to a modernized cottage and out of the old farm house. Once Laura Ingalls Wilder moved to the new house everything changed. Overnight she had electricity and relatively few household chores so she filled the space with writing. The rest is history.

What Do We Do With Convenience and Space?
I can’t help but look back at my own working life and see that there were times when new tools, conveniences or even carving out some space in my schedule made all the difference. I got my first laptop (that wasn’t one owned by an employer) in 2005 and that’s when I started getting into social media. I started blogging in 2006 and that launched my business in 2007.

I have taken risk on jobs or opportunities when there was space in my schedule to do so. There are clients I wouldn’t be working with today if not for the space to take a risk several years ago.

New tools or new space can lead to big things. Sometimes it’s just a matter of getting free from what you’ve always done. In other cases it’s a matter of getting your hands on something for the first time and encountering a new world of possibility.

Space and Convenience Questions To Ask Ourselves
For all the talk about time management or the latest gadgets I think there’s another way to look at those same conversations. What if we asked ourselves these questions while we consider new technology or new opportunities:

  • Does this new thing help me do something better than I do it now?
  • Do I have time to do something now that I’ve never tried before?
  • Would this new thing give me access to something I haven’t had before?
  • Would I spend time doing one thing if I eliminated something else from my routine?
  • What would be propelled professionally by this convenience?
  • What might I accomplish if I cleared some space in my schedule?

Perhaps asking these questions just turns a situation differently enough so that the light hits it at a different angle and we see something new. For the last several years I’ve asked some version of these questions to myself when I want a new gadget or contemplate a new business venture. I feel like I’m better off for doing so and it was interesting to discover that Laura Ingalls Wilder’s situation was a result of new space and new convenience…and a pushy, yet generous, daughter.

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