What building a wall and writing have in common

This summer’s big project has been to tear down and rebuild a retaining wall in our backyard. And like many projects, it was something we were doing for the first time. So we read up, asked friends who had built a retaining wall, and crossed our fingers.

Taking down the wall was the easy part. (I like to say that anyone can do demolition — it’s putting something back together that requires skill.) Then came the trenching, which was awful. There were roots from old shrubs and tree stumps and buried pieces of concrete in the way. It was hot. There was a lot of grumbling.

But we chipped away at it, foot by foot, until the digging was done. Then came the base layer of rock that the stones sit on top and the drain tile behind the wall so that water doesn’t freeze and push the wall over — the reason we had to rebuild it in the first place.

We are not done, but we’re getting closer.

What does building a wall and writing have in common? Glad you asked.

Publishing a book has parts that aren’t much fun. It’s different for each author — some dread the editing process (like me), others may not be crazy about the social networking component that’s necessary these days. But you have to do them all if you’re going to succeed at this … otherwise your wall may not last very long and fall over.

Stacking the wall has been like assembling a jigsaw puzzle — except each piece weighs 20 to 30 pounds. We’re using recycled concrete chunks and each piece is a different length and thickness. Sometimes a piece we think is just right has to be moved around because it’s not the perfect fit we thought it might be. Your book is going to be the same way. Listen to your instincts and don’t be stubborn.

The one thing about the wall that surprised me a little is last week, for the first time, this project became … fun. Yes, really.  It’s starting to look like a wall. It’s starting to look like we know what we’re doing! And we’re putting plants in the nooks and crevices to turn it into a “living wall.”

You, too, will find some unexpected joys along the road to publishing — savor and remember them on the first day of your next book.

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