Building a house – or a book

The work on the house is now almost done. We have been saying this for a few weeks now and each time it has been true. On reflection, I think the process of creating a book is a lot like a building project.

When you first start, it’s a total mess:


Ideas everywhere in no discernible order. At least with a house, you have an architect who knows what is going on. With a book, you are architect, builder, project manager, joiner, plumber and general gofer. Sometimes all at once. Mainly unpaid. No, scrub that. Entirely unpaid.

Then you start to put things together, but it’s still not looking like anything you would want anybody else to see. For good reason. And it does feel like you are wandering around in the dark…

So you carry on. Just keep going. No matter the weather or your mood, you have to persevere. Then something starts to take shape and you think, maybe this isn’t going to be so bad after all. Just don’t focus on all that mud.

But that’s just the framework that’s in place really. There’s still a lot to do behind the scenes – the bit nobody else ever sees.

Eventually, it’s done. The first draft. And you think, that’s looking pretty decent. I can’t see anything wrong with it.

So you fire it out. And you get a snagging list back. So you start to go through it, and pretty soon…

Yup, you’re back to the drainage. Because it isn’t right. And the walls are the wrong colour. The radiators are leaking. And the shower doesn’t work because the water pressure is too low. To be honest, you always knew it was too low. You just hoped it wouldn’t matter. But when one shower doesn’t work at all and the other one manages only to drip out of half the nozzles, you know something has to be done. You can try denial, but after a while it will be you that is stinking if you don’t get that shower working.

Right now, I’m sorting the metaphorical drainage, walls and painting and hoping the pipes don’t suddenly spring a leak now there is real pressure on them. Once you’ve been away from the house or the book for a few weeks, you come back and you see everything that’s wrong. But you still love it. And you know all those things you’re now spotting can be fixed. It just takes time and patience and a large dose of honesty. It’s going to look lovely, inside and out. It’s just not quite there yet.


And when a neighbour clears away an acre of trees and you are left with this view from my desk, you can start to believe it will all be worth it in the end.


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