Monday, July 15, 2013

My Fixer-Upper Fantasy

Patty here

I don’t watch a lot of television, but occasionally I click on HGTV (Home and Garden TV for the uninitiated) and watch Love it or List It, The Kitchen Cousins, and The Property Brothers, all of which prove that you can make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.

It’s fascinating to watch designers and construction crews transform unworkable spaces into works of art. I have never been motivated to buy a piece of land and build a house from scratch, but for as long as I can remember I’ve wanted to buy a fixer-upper like this…

And transform it into this…

Using just my head, my hands and this…

This is my grandfather’s hammer. He died before I was born but he was a carpenter toward the end of his life. His hammer passed down to my mother and then to me. Every time I use it I think of him and the stories of his life, which I learned from her.

I’ve been involved in a few reno projects but only from a distance, and nothing like the sledge hammering, tearing down walls, extreme makeovers you see on HGTV shows. I doubt that I inherited my grandfather's carpentry gene, but there is something about repairing a mess that holds great appeal for me.

Recently, I’ve come to the conclusion that my fixer proclivity also translates to writing, because fixing things is what I love most about the process. I never look forward to buying a ream of paper and creating that first rough draft from scratch. That is pure torture for me. However, once the words are on the page in some sort of order that makes sense, I begin editing the manuscript. Editing provides a delicious freedom to knock down walls, replace foundations and open up the space to new possibilities.

Unfortunately, unless you hire a ghostwriter to produce a first draft, you have to fill those blank pages yourself. You have to start. Then you have to finish. So how do you do that?






If you don’t start or you don’t finish, you might be missing an essential ingredient: D-E-S-I-R-E. You have to want it more than you want almost anything else. Many years ago, I copied a passage from a book by Susan Page called The Shortest Distance Between You and a Published Book. It read:

“…burning commitment…is a deep inner passion, a feeling of absolute certainty that nothing can stop you from achieving your goal. Burning commitment is not something you decide to have; it is something you discover is there. And it is truly a powerful force, a determination that will carry you through a huge variety of potential setbacks. Burning commitment is precisely the disappearance of self-doubt.” 

The fact that I copied this quote so long ago might be a hint that desire has always been a weak link in my process. I’m going to take a moment to think about that. Do I want to make a silk purse out of the sow's ear that is my current manuscript or do I want to kick back and watch The Kitchen Cousins install a new Sub-Zero? It's up to me. Stay tuned...

 Happy Monday!


  1. I think you know the answer: Hammer out your MS. Give it your awl. And then settle back and watch TV.

  2. I can't pound a nail straight. Occasionally, I can nail a line of dialogue.

  3. Har! Har! to both of you.

  4. from Jacqueline

    Ok, so anyone can wield a hammer, but not everyone can build a story - and to use Paul's metaphor, it's time to nail it all in place. I always think of the basic story as the clay on the wheel - a big old lump of clay that I have to get in there and mould (or do I mean "mold" - American spelling still gets me at times) it into the very best shape possible. I have to try to be what my father was in his chosen trade - a master craftsman. OPK, Patty - the foundation is set, the frame is in place, now get out your tools and let your skill and imagination turn it into something really great - think "palace."

  5. OPK? I'll be trying to figure that one out all night. Thanks for all your inspiring thoughts, Our J.

  6. I am so glad we do not have HGTV in the Netherlands. I would never get anything done except watch tv. At least no there is time to read books.

  7. I'll admit, some of their shows are addictive.