Writing Tips, Compliments of the Kitchen Painting Project

Wednesday, July 29, 2020
Like many of the Pandemic Population, I’ve been working on a home project. Namely, painting. And the other day, whilst I stood there, paintbrush in hand, fumes swirling about my head, I still somehow managed a couple of brilliant thoughts about writing. So before the fumes overtake me, here’s a few writing tips, compliments of the Kitchen Painting Project:

#1: Music Can Make All the Difference

I don’t know about you but I am not one to bounce out of bed, shouting, “Wheee! I get to paint all the trim today!” No, friends, painting all the trim is an onerous task. Painting all the trim calls for a little mood music to make it all bearable.

Fortunately, I have four or five CDs of ol’ Dean Martin and before long, despite my aching arms and knees, I’m singing and smiling; I’m in a fine mood, mostly because I have lots of great memories of Dean. Suddenly, I’m not a woman of a certain age with paint splatters in her hair, I’m a kid again, staying up way past bedtime to watch Johnny Carson and Dean. That’s the power of music!

And how can you harness that power in your writing? If you’re writing your memoir, listen to the music of your life. You’ll be amazed at the memories that will come flooding back to you. Or if you’re writing an historical piece, listen to the music of the time period to get a feel for the culture. Maybe you’re writing a mystery or thriller; there is nothing like Tubular Bells to set the mood. The point is, music might just make an ordinary story sing so why not give it a try?

#2: Respect the Process

Painting is a tedious process, isn’t it? One has to do all the prep work before even starting the job. And then there’s the painting itself, which includes who-knows-how-many-coats of paint (and waiting in between for paint to dry). Finally, there’s the point where one thinks one is finally done but puts on one’s glasses and sees flaws.

Well, it’s just like writing, isn’t it? Granted, a pantser might skip the prep part of the writing process but once through the first draft, it’s time for rewrite after rewrite after rewrite (and waiting a bit between revisions). And finally, there’s the point where the writer sends out the finished product for feedback and beta readers or critique partners take a close look. Flaws must be addressed.

Painting or writing, there’s a process. And respecting the process pays off in the end product.

#3: But Forget Perfection

Just when I think I am done with all the trim, I find another spot that needs a touch up. Or a pinprick hole that needs filling in or a streak of stained wood peeking through—UGH! But you know what? There is always going to be something that needs a bit of paint. And I will never move on to the next Pandemic Project if I don’t learn to live with imperfection.

Writing is the same way. At some point, one must quit fiddling with the work and start the next task. The next task may be submitting; it may be querying; it might be starting a whole new writing project. But for every writer (and painter) the time comes to call it done and move on.

And maybe celebrate with a little Dean Martin and a drink.

(So what home project have you been working on for the last couple months? And what writing tip can you share from it?)

~ Cathy C. Hall (who may have spent more time watching Dean Martin videos than writing this blog post. But you have to respect the process, y'all. )


Sioux Roslawski said...

Cathy--I am going to share a tip from an anti-tasker (not that I'm talking about myself).

If a writer lays on the couch for weeks, bingeing on TV shows and movies and eating too much chocolate chip cookie dough... Well, it's going to be rough getting back into the writing groove. Hypothetically speaking, of course. I am certainly NOT speaking of my own experience.

(Speaking of movies, you should watch, or rewatch, "Moonstruck." It's such a sweet movie, and it begins with Dean Martin singing.)

Cathy C. Hall said...

Of course you aren't speaking of yourself, Sioux. You're much too good of a writer (and worker bee) for that sort of behavior. :-)

That's the movie with Cher? I remember liking it when I first watched it--I will re-watch any happy-ending movie but throw in Dean and I may skip painting today!

Jeanine DeHoney said...

Cathy, I love the title of this article and how your painting project relates to writing. For me, music has always inspired me to write. I've toyed with the idea of writing stories about the songs that were part of my life, from childhood on, for years and may one day start working on that. And yes, for writers and painters and anyone doing DIY projects during this time, we all have to know when we're done so we can move on to the next project, be it writing or something else.

Sioux Roslawski said...

Oh, Cathy--Jeanine's comment made me remember something I was going to put in my comment.

I've heard of writers who listen to the same song--over and over and over--while they work on a novel. It might be a song from the era (if they're working on something historical) or it might be a piece of music that speaks to the character or plot.

I suppose--even if there's words to the music--it starts to sound just like instrumentation after you've listened to it hundreds of times...

Cathy C. Hall said...

I think that's a great idea, Jeanine! You might want to check copyright before quoting songs in your work but it's FREE to get inspired by the music. :-)

Yep, Sioux, I had a friend who was writing a very dark YA and she had Tubular Bells on repeat in her headphones. Totally creeped me out!

Linda O'Connell said...

Ilove your tip about listeningt ot he music of your era. I am working on a memoir and intend to do this. When I hear those oldies I can almost feel the tug of the future, and now that future is my past. Each song connects me to something from yesteryear. You are one smart cookie.

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