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? 🙂

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