Reflecting on Writing in a Construction Zone

FOUR YEARS AGO, I wrote a blog post about the little fixer upper I had bought. This post was written with a healthy dose of optimism, and an undercurrent of idealism. Me and my 70s-era fixer upper—we would go on an adventure together. I saw into her soul, saw who she once had been and who she was aching to be again, and I would be the one to bring her there.

Sigh… my writer’s imagination seeps into every aspect of my life.

Four years later, and I have just completed what is, in the reality-tinged light of day, a major renovation. It is one which has dominated the last four years of my life. Most of my time has been spent working on my home, and the majority of that which hasn’t been spent working has been taken up by stressing over how I’m going to tackle the nosing on the stairs, or square up the shower walls to the edge of the tub.

It has been a long, hard journey but I have officially come to the end of it. My little fixer upper has been restored, made pretty, put on the market, and sold. She will go to a new family who will (I hope with all my heart) love her the way she deserves to be loved. I couldn’t be more thrilled.

But as with every tinge of reality comes the grey side to the rosy. In my situation, it is the fact that living in a construction zone for that long has taken a toll on my productivity, my creativity, my will to sit down at my computer and write. It’s demoralizing when your office is the kitchen table, and that kitchen table is surrounded by a 10-pack of baseboard MDF, stacks of plywood and bags of thin-set mortar. The setting, it is safe to say, is not conducive to whisking one away to a world inside one’s head.

The truth of the matter is, I can now admit, that I underestimated the impact my home reno project would have on my life. Would I change the experience now that I’ve had it? No. It was a valuable lesson on what my time is worth. Would I do it again? Also no. Now that I know what my time is worth, I know how best to spend it.

More importantly, I now understand how important one’s surroundings are to what one wants to accomplish. If I want to be the next Nicole Curtis, then surrounding myself with construction materials is a safe bet. But that’s not for me. I am a writer. I now truly appreciate how important it is to put myself into a mindset where I enjoy writing, by immersing myself in an environment that encourages this. I need an office of my own—especially in this time of covid lockdown where I can’t just take myself off to a coffee shop to get away from the pandemonium at home.

Dr. B.J. Fogg, Director of Stanford Persuasive Lab, said, “There’s just one way to radically change your behaviour: radically change your environment.” I can now truthfully say I understand this nugget of wisdom both forward and back. Before purchasing my little fixer upper, I had a home with an office. I wrote more. In my little fixer upper, I struggled to write. My environment, I am convinced, had a significant part to play in that.

Happily, I have had the good fortune to be able to remedy this. With the sale of my little fixer upper, I’ve been able to purchase a new home. A larger home—with space for three teenagers, a hubby, and an office for myself. And now that I appreciate how important an office space is to my writing productivity, I will ensure that it is the best writing office it can possibly be. Office makeover, here I come!

I will start with a desk. Because, as Carrie Bradshaw from Sex and the City says, “It’s all about the desk. If I find the desk, the writing will come.”

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