Rebuilding the bits of our home that failed to survive their transition from the old site to our farm has been chewing a lot of my time and energy – a lot of work above my head, which starts to make you aware (with a fraction of the suffering) of how painful crucifixion must have been.
I’m busy with ceilings at the moment. For reasons that are probably best not elaborated too much about (without writing Dave’s book of disasters) I’m not dealing with square rooms. The rhombus is a fine shape, I sure, but less than fun to fit 13 mm square ply boards to. And to add joy some of the timbers are old and a little warped, if still sound.
Like many writers I can be utterly obsessive, terribly precise, and obstinate way beyond just being a fault. The latter never leaves, although the precision and obsession with trivial details I’ve managed to ease off on a little with the writing process.
Add that lot together and it makes ceilings slow and complicated. Anyway, Ambulance service call-out last night just before midnight (I wasn’t actually on call, but we all get the pager-message, and I always check. A couple of times I’ve been the closest trained first responder. This was one of those, and as Comms couldn’t actually make contact with the two who were on call, I was one of the two officers dealt with it.)
It proved pretty minor, but it’s a couple of hours cut out of your core sleep, and I struggle to get back to sleep after. So: I faced the ceiling work this morning with a lot of yawns and a rather cloudy brain and stuff that requires reversing a lot of the measurements you can take. There are six large boards in the ceiling – how many ways can you get that wrong? (A surprisingly large number…)
Needless to say I made a horse’s butt out of it. If the horse’s butt’s I’ve made over the years were attached to horses, I could sell entire herds, so I am good at this, and used to it.
Now there are two ways most of us can deal with this situation. 1) You can try to fix without undoing all the work you’ve done. 2) Put up with a rotten job that you can maybe plaster or hope no-one notices. No, the picture is not my house…
Number 2 won’t work for me, because _I_ will notice.
So I spent about 4 hours on option 1.
This is not my first rodeo, I know a lot about fixing messes.
But after four hours I looked up and decided that _I_ would notice.
So… I went for option three (which no-one ever wants to mention. Or, in most cases, consider. Not with ceilings, and certainly not with books they’re writing. )
And no, that is not just walk off in disgust.
It’s ‘take it all down and start again’. Like poor old Michael Finnegan, (‘he grew whiskers on his chinnegin, the wind came up and blew them innegin, poor old Michael Finnegan, Beginnegin’) – as the children’s rhyme I grew up with taught me, it was a case of ‘you’ve been working all day, and all you’ve done is learn how the job should not be done. Take it down and start again.’
The curious thing about this is that it had taken me eight and a bit hours to reach that point. Two and half hours later – when I ran out of light, I was very nearly at the same point I’d reached before pulling it down.
Only this time… the gaps were not gaping maws but needing a rubber mallet to try to make it fit. I probably still will be less than pleased with it all, but it’s a better job under worse circumstances than the professional builder did in the place we’re staying in.
And herein lies today’s writing message: sometimes it is not worth ‘fixing’ a piece of text, even a whole story. Sometimes hard though it may be, you’re better off to take a fresh go at it. And because you now know what you need to do, instead of just hacking away, it comes together a lot easier, better, and tighter than any fix could make it.
It’s still a hard thing to do. But I found myself there with quite a few books and stories in the past. It’s just not working for you, it doesn’t want to be fixed… well you have probably done something intrinsic wrong (as I had with the ceiling) at structural levels. Writing it again may well work. It has for me, no matter how reluctant I’ve been to do it again.