So my life has been consumed for the past three months by the underworld. No, I have not been overindulging in paranormal romances--I've been obsessed with the world beneath my house. Yes, I've been finishing my basement, and yes, at times it did feel like something was sucking the life and energy right out of me! (Okay, enough with the vampire references and on to the paint.)
Yes, paint. The real threat to any mortal's existence.
Now I consider myself quite a handy girl. After all, part of this new basement is a shop for my woodworking and a new tie-dye sink. (Yes, I put in a sink just for that--you try to avoid technicolorizing your white kitchen sink with a sopping pile of jewel tone belly dancing veils!) So when I was looking for ways to save money on this little project, I decided to tackle the painting myself. (Well, technically I was also volunteering my entire family for said tackling. Because I don't like people to feel left out. I'm considerate like that.)
A full month later, I've learned a lot about painting. And as I've spent a lot of time painting, I've also thought a lot about writing.
This the part you forget to plan for. Because really, don't we all just want to jump right in? If only it were that easy. Pick the colors, slap them on the walls! Do you have any idea how much tape it takes to mask off all that trim? How much caulk it takes to fill all the little holes? How much time you'll spend sanding things down so they look just so? There's a lot of work that goes into painting before you even pick up a brush. Let me tell you what happens if you rush ahead and start painting without doing the prep work--you get to go back and re-do things. A lot of things.
In writing, take the time to do your research first, or you'll waste a lot of valuable time correcting your goof-ups when you want to be polishing instead. Do character sketches. Do some webbing or brainstorming. Do a spreadsheet of your chapters so you know where you're headed. Do whatever works for you and gets you on the right path.
The Ecstasy of Fresh Paint
Oh, that first roller full of paint on drab drywall is heavenly. Heck, the whole first coat of primer wasn't bad. Starting a new writing project is always fun because it's new, and exciting, and you have no idea what is in store for you. Weeks and weeks of. . .
The Miserable Middles
Will this ever be done? Is it too late to call in a professional? Isn't the primer that came on the baseboards good enough? (It is already white, after all?) I don't need to say much here, because you know what I'm talking about. Night after night of just plowing through when it seems that the end is about as far away as China and you're wondering why you even started the journey in the first place.
We all have writing drawers containing half-painted basements. That manuscript that popped into your head when you read that line? Pull it out. It needs a few more coats.
A Deadline...Never Done, Just Due
So we got burned out about halfway through, and gave ourselves permission to take some time off. After all, did we really want the contractor's workers smudging up our hard work? Wouldn't we be better off just waiting to finish after they were done? It was nice to have a respite, but carpet installation day was bearing down upon us. We re-discovered our passion for our abandoned rollers and trim brushes and got back down to work.
Yes, give yourself a writing break if you need it. But also give yourself a deadline--even if it's a fake one. Promise something big to someone if you don't meet it. My sister is the master at this, as you read in an earlier blog post. She has held cruises, fancy dinners at French restaurants, and recently a trip to see Mickey Mouse over my head. I don't submit a query by my deadline? The trip will be at my expense. It sounds silly, but it's effective.
Revise, Even If It Feels Like It Will Kill You
Ah, if only you were done when the last of the tape is taken off. Standing back a few feet, things look fantastic! You are done! Burn that painting t-shirt in celebration. Besides, is anyone really going to notice that drip? That smear? That spot underneath the windowsill that you didn't quite reach? That bare drywall showing through where the celebratory tape removal got a little too enthusiastic?
Yes. You will notice.
I spent an entire night with a tiny paintbrush going over all of the spots where the painter's tape leaked, or I splattered, or a roller didn't quite reach. Yes, you wouldn't notice them if you were standing in the middle of the room. But I knew they were there. And I knew I would see them and feel guilty every time I noticed something I didn't take the time to make right. Even days later, I'm still finding spots I need to fix.
You know where the flaws are in your manuscript. Don't just hope people aren't going to notice them; take the time to fix them.
Sometimes the fixes aren't touch-ups, they are major. I'm pulling the painting clothes out tomorrow night because I didn't do an accent wall I should have. Despite the fact that I had declared the job "done" and the carpet is already in, I'm not happy with it. Just when you think you're done with your manuscript, you'll come up with a great idea to improve things. Don't be so exhausted you talk yourself out of it.
Painting and writing. . .both exhausting, both frustrating, but both very rewarding if you stick with it!
No work of art should be without its own soundtrack; any recent author's blog will attest to that. So here it is, the official Price Sisters Painting Soundtrack. The opening notes of any one of these songs makes me long for my paint-spattered jeans (that are so caked with Lulled Beige that they can now stand up on their own) and a good roll of Bloc-It painter's tape. Enjoy!
1. "Moves Like Jagger" by Maroon 5
2. "Love You Like a Love Song" by Selena Gomez
3. "Pumped Up Kicks" by Foster the People
4. "Someone Like You" by Adele
5. "Stereo Hearts" by Gym Class Heroes
6. "You and I" by Lady Gaga
7. "Last Friday Night" by Katy Perry
8. "You Make Me Feel..." by Cobra Starship
9. "If I Die Young" by The Band Perry
Please note that I do not particularly enjoy and/or recommend these songs, but they played so repeatedly during our weeks of painting that I'm sure I'll still be humming them when I'm a ditzy old lady rocking out in my easy chair as I knit scarves. So if your grandma sings the same songs repeatedly, somebody probably made her paint a basement long ago. Be nice, and just sing along--she's earned it.