Tuesday, May 22, 2012

How Writing is Like House Hunting: My wish list includes open concept, stainless steel appliances, granite countertops…

My wish list includes open concept, stainless steel appliances, granite countertops, undercounter sink, glass tile backsplash, walk-in pantry, real hardwood floors.  I want four bedrooms, three-and a half baths, en suite master bedroom with two walk-in closets. Three-car garage, walk-out finished basement for a man-cave and media room.  Large deck for BBQs on an acre of fenced land.  All for $150,000. We’re 23-years-old and have been working for a year and deserve to have everything we want….”
I admit it.  I watch too much HGTV, especially a crazy little show called “House Hunters.”  I don’t know what it is, but I am fascinated the expectations people have when shopping for their dream house…and what they believe is possible on a limited budget.  What it reminds me of, I suppose, is myself and my original expectations about writing and having a writing career.  How much easier I thought it would be.
On “House Hunters,” the real estate agents do a lot of whispering to the camera about how their clients need to face reality and adjust their expectations. They have a lot to learn about leaky plumbing, lurid paint colors, and the freeway view from the back deck.  Deciding to write includes similar wake-up calls.  Sure, when we see books from the James Patterson Factory on the best seller list week after week, we think, “I can do this.  I write better than that.  These stories are trite.”  And “That’s where I want to be, selling book after book, and raking in the dough.”  But, writing, even not so good writing, has its challenges, its requirements, its reality.We are all na├»ve to a certain point when we begin a new adventure, whether it’s searching for a new place to live or deciding we want to be a writer.  What we see in the distance is our “dream house” or our “dream career,” and we think—hope—it’s as easy as it looks.
Instead of leaky plumbing, we writers discover we have leaky brains.  What we thought was a great idea while it was bouncing around in our head, drips out on the computer screen one annoying drop at a time. Those childhood memories that felt complete and poignant when we were mowing the lawn and smelling the freshly-cut grass evaporate when your fingers are on the computer keys.  And then there are all the REAL LIFE interruptions rumbling day and night all around you.
But does this mean you can’t write, can’t have a career, can’t learn and grow and gain great satisfaction from putting words on paper?  As anyone will tell you who has looked for the ideal apartment, lusted for a dream house, it takes time, patience, and compromise.  You may not get the exact home you dreamed about, but through your daily presence in a house, becoming acquainted with its quirks,  practicing your handy-man skills, learning about what works and what doesn’t work, talking with experts,  remodeling, finessing, you can turn a house into what you want, you can make it yours.  The same is true of writing.
It’s important to have dreams and desire about what we want to achieve as writers.  It is important to strive and grow.  We transform ourselves as we write because that’s what writing does to us, for us.  It allows us to observe life, ponder its circumstances and its realities, and communicate our understanding to others.  This, like creating a home, takes time and patience.  We make mistakes, we adjust, we learn, we ask questions, we grow.  And maybe, just maybe, our dreams will come true.

Also published at Flash Fiction Chronicles on May 21  2012.