Renovate your writing

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I’ve just finished a renovation in my house. It all started when the dishwasher broke, then the fridge… I think you can guess the rest of this story. I ended up replacing the kitchen and the hall closet, and then, bit-by-bit, pretty much changing the entire main floor.

The timeline followed that trend as well. Seven weeks turned into six months. I was immersed in every single aspect of the project, from design, to appliances, countertops and even the right shade of white for the walls. I know, you’re thinking that white is white. That would be wrong. There are differences. Some subtle, no doubt. But some whites have too much grey, or green, or a yellow undertone, which significantly affects how the paint looks on the wall.

In 2015 I released my first novel with The Jam Press, Conversations for Two. Writing and publishing a book requires an incredible amount of attention to detail. How every single sentence should comprise exactly the right words and attitude, and how one sentence flows to the next. How many times do you use the same word? That is a great exercise by the way. Our editor and co-coach with The Jam Press, Janis Seftel, will tell you what an absolute crazy, obsessive person I became! In the final reads I was shocked at how many times I used “blue”. Subsequently, I can now recite at least twenty shades of blue…

All this is to say that there are great lessons to be learned from both my reno and my writing experiences that support the other. Here are seven lessons learned from my renovation that I can absolutely apply to writing. Funny how that works…

1. Have a plan. Change it. Make another plan. Go back to your original plan.

2. Take a sledgehammer to your project before you start. Ideas are like walls: knock them all out so you can see the structure without the clutter.

3. Visualize your project from beginning to end. See it at every stage and make changes before the frame and drywall. If there are problems in the layout they don’t magically go away. You cannot fix major flaws in your story at the end with the edit.

4. At least triple the amount of time you think you’re going to need to finish. Writing needs time to breathe. As the walls are knocked down, the story reveals itself, perhaps differently than you expected.

5. Conceiving the reno was similar to writing the first draft of a book. The construction is like editing, because things change as you see the shape evolve. The installation is like publishing. The cabinets and countertops package and support the design, as the font, paper and cover represent our words.

6. My first instincts were always the best. I chased my tail trying to find better tiles, appliances, faucets, sinks and stone for my countertops. Looked at everything, everywhere and ended up with my first choices every time. If you are clear from the start then all the subsequent decisions will be aligned.

7. Dust settles. Everywhere. There is nowhere to hide! Eventually though, it is cleaned away. And what is left is a beautiful space. You have to be in the trenches to write a book. It’s messy, always there, follows you around relentlessly until it’s done. Then, when it is, you feel like curling up to a delicious well-earned sleep on crisp, fresh hotel sheets. Or in my case, finally being able to put my dishes in the dishwasher!

Written by Jacqui Markowitz, who started The Jam Press to help other women fulfill the dream of writing their books too.

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