I've been hard at work in my House of a Thousand Windows, re-doing the guest bedroom.
When we moved into the House, this particular room was painted a dull periwinkle grey and the trim was done in a forcefully average medium blue. If chronic, unyielding depression needed a place to stay, it would have chosen that room. Seasonal Affective Disorder was born in that room. Guests seemed to emerge noticeably...puny the day after sleeping in that room.
It was awful.
So I decided to repaint it a pleasant, pale yellow and make that horrid dark trim white.
Do you realize how much primer and paint it takes to get medium blue to crisp white?
I've been recoating a lot. I'm on my second can of primer. This may be due partially to the fact that I bought something on the cheap end, but it was Killz brand, and since that was pretty much what I wanted to do to that room, I thought it was fitting.
The secret to a good paint job, as any painter (or page on This Old House's website) will tell you, is priming first (and keeping your edges wet, which I fail at completely). In the hours I've spent doing so, I found myself wondering if the same applies to writing.
Do you need to prime before you write?
The natural discussion that comes out of that question is probably the "plotter vs pantser" debate, but maybe that's not quite what I'm talking about. The complete, detailed, intensively plotted outline will not necessarily yield a better book than the frantic, inspiration-coming-as-a-thief-in-the-night totally pantsed book. (Note: Need better term than "pantsed book." Sounds like a bullied novel...) I believe that plot vs pants is a spectrum, with good writers falling all along it.
But starting with a blank slate, building a rich base, and getting in the right headspace to write all seem like priming to me, too. I find myself trying to mentally immerse myself in my writing before I try to sit down at the computer. I'll consider the questions I'd been chewing on, think about the way the scene looks, run through the dialogues I might want to write. And even if I haven't mentally pre-written a scene, clearing my mind of distractions (say, getting my head out of work or parenting or prepping the roast chicken for dinner) before writing makes my work more productive.
So I do think priming matters--priming makes the work of creating go faster. It makes the work itself better, richer. It makes the process more seamless--there's no warm-up to writing, just the deeply entrenched writing itself.
And that brings me back around to painting--it's been a fantastic, quiet way to prime myself for writing. After an hour of daubing whitewhitewhite paint on trim, all the while ruminating on characters in my WIP, I'm ready to write.
Plus, thinking about writing keeps me from plotting ways to Killz the creator of Benjamin Moore Rainy Day Depression Gray paint.