Thursday, August 26, 2010

My New Studio--and Why Writing is a Lot Like Building

Welcome! Clay table on view....
This side is for watercolor and art journaling....
Snazzy window and miniature rose bush we saved from destruction...

And ta-dah! Doors closed, artist at work. Excuse the state of the lawn--will be replanted ASAP at the same time the river stones are smoothed out and "beautified" with pots, plants, etc.

So there's my little studio, finished at last.  Other than a desperate need for some landscaping repairs, I'm thoroughly pleased and can't wait to begin a "real project" this weekend using up my clay scraps.  Over the next few weeks I'll be figuring out what kind of extra shelving, cork boards, and storage I need, but for now it's everything I wanted and I couldn't be happier.

During the construction process I kept thinking of a much bigger job my husband and I took on many years ago while living in Georgia--we built our entire house, and it wasn't easy, I can tell you.  Putting up the studio was a mini-version of that same experience, and every nail, wall board, and coat of paint brought it all back with a vengeance.  At the same time, I was constantly reminded of the similarities building had with writing.  For instance,

1.  Materials List.  Write it down, make it happen.  Somewhere back in my list of goals to achieve I wrote:  "I have my own studio space."  Writing down your goals is important.  Make lists of stories, books, essays you want to write and then take the mindset that they are already written.  You'll be amazed how your productivity increases and your pages build up.

2.  Blueprints.  In the beginning of any construction project, things look great on paper, but once the foundations are laid--everything seems so tiny; it's impossible to believe there will ever be enough room.  It's the same when we're working with that first idea for a piece.  We start off with a bang and then once we start writing, we ask ourselves, "Is this enough??"

3.  Framing.  But once the walls go up, that space is downright palatial.  Same with writing.  Once you get your characters, goals, and plot points in place, you can often end up with too much going on!  Rarely is an idea "too small."

4.  Speed Writing.  It's amazing how quickly the framing can go:  from zero to, "Wow!  That really looks like a house!"  It's a lot like when you get all that great outlining, character bios, and research finished and realize you are very close to creating a real manuscript.

5.  Work Stoppages.  It rains.  The plumber is sick.  The bulldozer breaks.  That tile you wanted is out of stock.  Your query letter is rejected--twenty times.

6.  Perseverance.   The wiring, the sheetrock, the plumbing--horrible, tedious, messy jobs, but you can do it.  Eyes on the prize.

7.  Finishing details.  For a house it's all about switch plates, bathroom hardware, and crown molding.  In your writing it's the difference between "lackluster, boring, and dull" or including specific, unique, and personal detail that makes your story and characters shine. 

8.  Clean-up Crew.  Usually my job (yuk).  The hours I have spent picking up squashed Coke cans, bent nails, torn plastic sheeting, wood off cuts, and broken shingles easily compete with the time I've spent editing my work.  'Nuff said.

9.  Move in day.  Hurray!  You're finished--a complete house; a complete manuscript.  And then as you walk around admiring those lovely countertops and door handles, you start getting ideas for “improvement.”  Don’t.  Just don’t.  Enjoy and use your space for a while before you start plotting any twists and turns.  Better still, wait to put those ideas into a new story, or at least wait until you have the guidance of a professional--e.g. your editor.

10.  Housewarming Party.  I still have a houseplant someone gave me for my very first house--one I didn't build, but by the time I'd remodelled every room it seemed as though I had.  I remember the fun and excitement of getting the house ready to show to my friends for the initial reveal--the same energy you want to put into your cover and query letters.  Make it pretty--at least while you're on stage!

Tip of the Day:  Virginia Woolf was right:  we all need a room of our own.  If you don't have one today, design your perfect space and imagine yourself already inside.  If you can dream it, you can have it.  Now start drawing that blueprint...


ArtfulStory said...

Valerie it looks so cozy! love the area for art journaling...

Jackie said...

Valerie , I love it. We are on the same page . On my blog recently I did a post with the cutest little cottage . It all started from there . I am planning a little cottage studio when we move . I have lots of ideas. I wish you many creative hours and peace in your new little studio :)

Linda Menesez said...

Thanks for letting me know about your pictures and your blog, Valerie. I'm so happy to think of you enjoying the peace, solitude, and creative haven of your cozy, new studio! I'll look forward to seeing the future landscaping too. You used a great analogy -- connecting writing to building a house! Good job!


D.M. SOLIS said...

Dear Valerie,

Love this! You did it! So proud of, with, and for you! Way to go!

Wishing you many productive moments there! Love,