Down To Studs

I suppose it’s no coincidence that I generally become obsessed by the idea of home renovation at about the same time that I am supposed to be eyelash deep in revisions.

I can’t stop with the home reno shows these days. And that should tell you pretty much everything you need to know.

And I hear that hiring contractors is like being in the seventh level of hell. Which after a long weekend of tearing my current manuscript to shreds, sounds positively refreshing.

It’s not really that bad.

Oh wait. No. It is.

There’s something so unutterably humbling about taking a story down to studs, laying bare the posts and taking a series of great, heaving whacks at the molded drywall with the proverbial hammer of Thor. At the end of it, heartsore and muscles weary, you’re left facing the bare, unadorned fact of the matter.

Where there is rot. Where it is sound. Where the architecture sings and where it falls flat.

Where old ghostly remnants of abandoned doorways and closets still hover, the marks in the wallpaper clearly mapping out where previous versions of this particular house began and ended.

You tuck these away, regretfully admitting at last that these tendrils do not belong to this story. Maybe later, they will live on in another house. But here, they are sadly and unavoidably out of place.

And you tear them down, rung by rung.

It’s exhausting. But at the end of the day, or weekend as the case may be, you’re left standing in a pile of carpet tacks and plaster dust, your hands stained with turpentine and spirit gum.

And it’s worked.

You can now see clearly what this place is all about. What kind of story it is, after all. What you’ve actually got on your hands.

It’s not what you thought. It’s not even remotely what you had planned.

But it has an internal logic that you’d only barely hinted at before. And once you’ve pulled down all of the absurd drapery that you’d festooned all about it over the last several months of desperately hoping that a full rehab would be somehow avoidable, you can finally see it for what it truly is.

And you see what a lovely old thing you have on your hands, after all.

And you begin to rebuild.


Image by Editor B

2 Thoughts.

  1. In Gone With the Wind there’s a description of Tara, the ancestral plantation, as a place that was built ramshackle, with rooms added on a whim and to suit the need of the day. That’s how I think of books. You might have a grandiose plan, but ultimately they grow to suit themselves, and that’s okay.

  2. I’m working on a memoir that covers a decade of my long ago life, 1965-1975, and almost as soon as I have built a section I find I need to tear it down and reinforce the joists before I can go on. I hope builders have the same ethic.

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