Sunday, January 24, 2010

Changes




My home is in chaos.

Two weeks ago I started a renovation, fixing up the walls and laying floors in the Brooklyn loft I have lived in since 1982, sans the ten years I spent in Los Angeles. It’s been a long time in coming, and it’s all thanks to my mother, who left her children the family home to sell and divide the proceeds.

I am sure I will be thrilled when it is all done, but for two weeks I have lived upstairs on an inflatable mattress, with a lot of what I own piled around me, while I watched my home being spackled, sanded, painted and now floored. It has left me floored, and exhausted, even though two friends have done most of the actual labor. While they did the main job, I followed along tweaking a wall here, a touch of paint there, and sorted through the pile of stuff I have sworn for two years that I would go through, sort and winnow down. I’ve thrown out bags of old papers, assorted objects I was sure I could use in an art piece one day, old toys I haven’t looked at in years...you know the drill.

It has been an ordeal as I have gone through the emotions of many of the revelations found there, and joy as I was reminded of other, better times, and found memories I’d almost forgotten. Yesterday flooring went well, the bedroom was completed, but today complications set in, and I fled to Ikea to find an area rug and to Loew’s for venetian blinds...by the time I returned the crisis had been met, even if the floor had only advanced by a few feet.

It has been Hell, and while the vision of what I will have when it’s done keep me going, it’s not easy. While I have input, and am “in charge” as the client, I am also dealing with people I know and don’t want to treat like worker drones I am ordering about. As I prepare to go to bed on a couch, giving the air mattress to the flooring friend staying over until the job is done, I am reminded of the year I spent on my last novel, and how similar the experience is. You knew I’d get there eventually, didn’t you? Writing is slow progress, day to day, sometimes you see the changes, and sometimes you feel it will never end, but once begun, I always feel committed to completion.

I have put off the novel I went back to after each of the first two, convinced I could finish it before I went back to the Vampire Testaments to work on the third novel in the opening trilogy. I knew that once the construction started, I wouldn’t get much more than re-reading book two and research for three done until I was back in my completed workspace, spick and span and ready for the year ahead. Keeping in mind that I am only days from moving my stuff back downstairs (I have been lucky enough to have the empty space upstairs to use, thanks to my downstairs neighbor and house partner Linda, who owns both) and that every step of the way I have been blessed is all that keeps me going.

Faith. It works in religion, construction and writing. Faith that what you are doing is worth writing, that you are a good writer, that what you began can be finished -- I could pound the analogy home, but the bottom line is that writing takes patience, hard work and belief in yourself and the work. It took me twenty years to get my first novel out, and much of what slowed it down was uncertainty that I knew what I was doing. I didn’t, as it turned out, but I also knew when to listen to those who told me what I might be doing wrong, and learned to do it better, until I did it “right”.

As I wait to go home again, a newly remodelled home beyond anything I might have dreamed possible a few years ago, I also wait to see what the third installment of my vampire epic will be. I know who is in it, what they want, when it is set and where...the materials are all gathered together, and all that’s left is building them into a suitable structure.

It’s exciting, scary, and the potential for failure and success is frighteningly equal. Failure feels disastrous, but pulling it off, standing back to see the work and truly loving the results -- there’s nothing like it. Last night, when the bedroom floor was done, horizontal bamboo, stained a dark rosy brown that set off the dark blue walls and ceiling perfectly (when I turn out the lights, I turn off the lights...) I lay on a pillow where my bed will be, and saw for a moment what the room would be when done. It was the same feeling I have after a satisfying key chapter is completed that lets me see the book I am writing more clearly. In the same way, I can also see what is still needed to -- if not perfect it -- make it better.

So, if you feel like you’re in over your head, that there is no end to your own personal Hell, be of good cheer -- everything ends. Octavia Butler said that God is change in “The Parable of the Sower” and truer words were never spoken. Change is the only constant, and writing and renovation celebrate it equally, with equal rewards if pursued properly.

I’ll let you know how they both went when I am done.

1 comment:

Stefanie Worth said...

Love the analogy, Terence. With homes and stories, something always needs to be updated, fixed or otherwise revised. Your post is a great reminder of the dust-blurred moments we encounter as writers and that we brush them off by hammering away to THE END.