I’ve spent part of most weekends for the last several months refurbishing my parents’ old house in preparation for putting it up for sale. It could have gone on the market “as-is”, but spending some time to make it more appealing to potential buyers seemed like a reasonable choice. Besides, I knew there was original oak flooring hidden behind that unattractive wall-to-wall carpeting and I was determined to see it revealed and restored.
Before I could get to the floors, however, there were 60+ years of possessions to get out of the way. My siblings and I grew up in the house, and my parents lived in it their whole married life, so there was a lot to go through. A whole lot. An appalling amount, actually. As anyone who has had to clear out another person’s house can tell you, it’s not the easiest of jobs and involves a fair amount of “I can’t believe they saved this” and” what on earth is this” kind of comments.
With the majority of the possessions out of the way – some to Goodwill, some straight to the garbage, and some relegated to a pile in the garage for “later” – it was time to tackle the carpets. If you’ve never pulled up carpets I have to say it’s kind of satisfying. Once you get a corner started, they come up pretty quickly and easily. Unfortunately, carpets are kept in place with a lot of tack strips and staples and sticky tape, which are a pain in the butt to remove. Not hard, just tedious. But the effort was worth it for a house-full of hardwood floors that were in remarkably good condition despite being covered up and ignored for as long as I can remember. With a buff and polish for the floors and a new paint job for the walls and trim the house had a whole new look. Cleared of all the clutter, the structure was revealed along with its strengths and weaknesses.
My story is undergoing a similar refurbishment. Instead of looking to for hardwood floors, however, I’m striping it down to the bare-bones to get a better understanding of my heroine’s goals and motivation. I’ve always had a good feel for her personality and what her long-term end goal is, but I found I needed a more nuanced understanding in order to establish a satisfying career arc for her and to strengthen the conflict in the story. I needed to peel back the layers of the story and get to the basic foundation so I could clearly articulate why she was in the story, what she wanted, and how she was going to go about it. Fortunately, I had plenty of free time while working on the house to do just that. Now I know why some of her scenes weren’t working and, better yet, how to fix them with some relatively minor adjustments. Yay!
Next week it will be time to turn my attention to refurbishing the backyard landscaping . Who knows, maybe something about the process of trimming trees, pulling weeds, and clearing out the garden shed will spark an idea to help me with my story. If nothing else, it will give me plenty of thinking time.
So, what non-writing activities provide you with story thinking time?