Writing and Fence Building


Fifteen years of shade and encroaching moss did their damage. The fence around our 30’ x 40’ dog yard wobbled like a bobble head if we leaned against it, and only a few of the posts kept it upright. Fortunately our dog wasn’t an escape artist, but there was very little keeping him from a romp in the neighbourhood. Replacement couldn’t be put off any longer.

One man, four months and $1200 later, the old fence has been dissembled section by section, and a new one put up in its place. The yard needed to be safe and usable during construction so nails were carefully removed from the old boards as they came down, and the wood was stacked outside of the yard. Old wire fencing temporarily filled each gap as it was created. It’s been painstakingly slow work, but – halleluia! – the job is almost done, with just a few cosmetic tasks left.

Each time I took a progress photo to send to our family I found myself comparing my husband’s fence building to my novel writing endeavour.

  • The initial commitment
  • Planning and research
  • Calculating and obtaining the necessary materials
  • Starting the work, and keeping going despite bad weather and interruptions
  • Taking down less than perfectly cut boards and redoing them so the next ones will fit properly
  • Slowly building the sections and putting everything together until only one final gap is left
  • Crafting the closure
  • Trimming and refining the finished product.
  • Taking pride in a job well done

Yes, there are similarities.  What other forms of construction can be compared to novel writing? Piecing a quilt? Composing a song? Planning a Sunday School lesson?

Is the existence of such similarities enough to prove a theory that formulas or templates can be used to produce almost anything? Then at what point do creations cease to be art? When does our writing stop being original and become just another fence board?

Oh, my! I’ve digressed a long way, haven’t I? I should be content that the dog can’t find his way into the creek or the neighbour’s garden and stop this mental meandering.

By the way, have you built any fences lately? Finished writing any novels? 🙂

~  ~  ~

16 thoughts on “Writing and Fence Building

  1. Katt says:

    What a great analogy! Thanks for making me think this morning.

  2. Erica Vetsch says:

    Interesting analogy, and props to your husband for finishing such a big job. 🙂

    Yesterday I finished a novella and today I’m starting a new one.

  3. mE says:

    My dear friend…your analogy is great!!!! Will give it much thought as I get ready for NaNo (yep, already planning for it since I can’t attend Surrey Conference this year. No luck yet for J J re job…Ally’s wedding was nice (held outside) lots of people. Two year old daughter took the spotlight, she is a wonder!!!!
    And congratulations to Erica Vetsche finishing and starting another!!!
    Wonderful job Bob!!!
    Luv-n-hugs, mE

  4. A wonderful analogy Carol. I guess the same can be true for any project. My daughter is a potter and we often compare our creative efforts. She will spend hours on a single pot only to squish it up and start over as it was less than perfect to her. Likewise I have ripped up many pages after hours of labour only to start fresh. Formulas can be used to produce anything but it is your own individual touch that makes it what it is. I bet your husband’s fence has his special touch and is unique to all the others. I am sure the dog is happy too!!

  5. You have such a lovely voice. I enjoyed reading your analogy.

  6. joylene says:

    I finished my next novel and I need to borrow your husband. I have this deck that really needs replacing. You could come with him, and while the men work hard, you and I could … supervise. I love supervising.

    Or we could eat.

    And when we’re really bored, we could write.

  7. I’m loving your comments! It makes my day to discover who has dropped in to read and respond, so thanks!

    Kudos to Erica and Joylene for finishing your current projects. That’s awesome! But I mentioned deck replacement to Bob, Joylene, and he just laughed.

    I’m still smiling from your rooster tale last week, Katt. You have such an upbeat perspective on everything. You radiate God’s love.

    Earlene, you’re putting me to shame… three months to NaNoWriMo and you’re already planning? Wow! Glad you had a good time at the wedding. I wonder where the years went. Ally was a little girl last time I looked.

    Throwing pottery is another great analogy I hadn’t thought of, Darlene. It is indeed the individual touch that makes any created thing unique.

    And Christine… you bless me with your praise. Thank you for the encouragement.

  8. I like your fence post today. Ha! No pun intended, but there it is.

    It makes me think of the wonderful way that God takes the old habits and ways out of our lives and replaces them with good. He never rips away at the structure of our spirits carelessly, but rather, purposefully, as your husband built your fence, carefully reconstructing us into the likeness of Christ.

  9. Laura Best says:

    Just finished another novel, again. (I think this is three times at least, lol) This time I’m promising myself not to look back. The rest is out of my hands. Love the fence analogy.

  10. Judith Robl says:

    I’m terribly behind on my reading, but at the moment my middle daughter and I are taking down kitchen cupboard doors and sanding for repainting. Doing one wall at a time – piecemeal, just like your hubby’s fence. What’s that old saw? Life is hard by the yard. Inch by inch, it’s a cinch. My writing inches along slowly.

  11. Great analogy to the fence fixing project. My fence posts are scattered all over the place and need to be gathered and put together. Focus and discipline are always my biggest challenges.

  12. Fence posts are the stabilizers for the whole enclosure, so I’m chuckling at Cathy’s visual. I’m glad our posts are all in place, but we do need the discipline to persist until fence boards fill all the gaps, don’t we?

    Carol Ann, I can’t believe that pun! Really! But you’ve also found a great spiritual application I hadn’t thought of, so thank you.

    Laura, third time is suppose to be lucky, isn’t it? I hope you’re able to keep moving ahead.

    I agree, Judith, sometimes progress is very slow, but as long as the forward momentum can be kept up, any goal is within reach. Isn’t that the ‘Tortoise and the Hare’ principle? 😉

  13. dave ebright says:

    In Pennsylvania we had a large 4BR house built with a huge basement. Even while the house was under construction, I had my eye on that basement, determined to finish it to my exact specification – & create the perfect “man cave”. Work started a year after we moved in. Over the years, I kept building & changing & tweaking & blah blah blah to get it the way I wanted. In the interim bought a house at the beach, routinely updated the main house, raised the kids, planted trees – cut them down when they got too big & completed various projects, big & small – except …. the “man cave”. Finally, I put my nose to the grindstone & stuck with it. Came out great. Threw a ton of money at it, everything top of the line – even did all of the walls in rough sawn cedar. It looked & smelled fantastic. Finished the work in February 2005…. & moved to Florida the following month.

    I’m not sure how that story ties in with writing – just felt like tellin’ it.

    • Wouldn’t you say it’s a lot like planning and working for what seems like forever on a story, adding scenes, revising, polishing… and only having a brief time to celebrate the accomplishment before moving on to a new writing project??? Perhaps there are pangs of regret at leaving something behind that you’ve put so much of yourself into, but there are always new challenges to anticipate. I hope your future is going to include a place to call your own wherever you are… and time enough to enjoy it. (Is early retirement an option?) 😀

  14. The pieces of my fence weren’t fitting. So I ripped it apart and started over.

    I’ve done that with quilting in the past, too.

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