Both are all-consuming, requiring full immersion and intense decision-making. As a result, I’ve become something of a bore. It can’t be helped.
The kitchen renovation has been long in the planning, so it’s a bit disingenuous to say that it started when demolition began. We’ve been dreaming about the changes for twenty-two years and designing it in earnest for the past eight months, discussing how the kitchen we inherited with the house could be improved to suit our multi-cook family.
There’s no question, the kitchen is the most heavily used and possibly the most important room in our house. It’s where we cook together, wash dishes together, and dance the dishes away.
Renovating the kitchen has required making a myriad of decisions about details, from the ceiling light fixtures to the flooring underfoot – and everything in between. It’s been a chance to think hard about workflow and ergonomics, and to choose appliances, cabinetry, colors and drawer pulls.
We’ve used the internet to educate ourselves about the gazillion types of fixtures available, and have enjoyed the steep climb up the learning curve of faucets, for instance. But the internet can’t tell us how that faucet feels in the hand. For that, we had to drive into town. This process taught us the importance of the kitchen faucet in our daily lives. It’s one of those essential fixtures about which we otherwise give almost no thought. To me, that’s a sign of perfection. It’s humbling to realize that good design operates sotto voce; it’s also a lesson that translates to revision.
REVISING A NOVEL
I’m revising a novel I started writing the same year we moved in to this house. I’ve finished it 2001, 2006 and 2011. I’m revising it again.
As with the kitchen, there are many details to consider. In order to keep them straight in my head, I’m spending most of my waking hours absorbed in the alternate universe of the imaginary Vermont towns of Orton and Waterchase in 1958, when the interstate was coming through.
It’s a fat book filled with fascinating details about mid-century farming practices and highway construction. I loved doing the research for this book, and I included a lot of what I learned. But what I see now is that it’s the flawed characters facing hard circumstances that matter most.
The information about farming and highway construction are like kitchen faucets: they should feel comfortable and work effortlessly, without drawing attention to themselves. So this time, I’m paring the book down to the essentials of the story and rearranging the order of things to improve the pace, much like the way we’re improving the ergonomics of the kitchen.
Managing the renovation compliments working on the revision. I have to be on-site to answer the contractor’s questions, and I can escape the chaos and noise in my studio while I revise.
These two projects take up all the bandwidth in my brain, leaving me with little else to think or talk about, which in turn makes me unfit for company, and that suits me just fine. Because all I want to do is check on the progress of the new kitchen between revising chapters of this novel that is so dear to my heart.
I know, replacing a functioning kitchen with a better one and revising a good novel into an excellent one are first-world problems. In truth, it’s nice to have something other than political news with which to be preoccupied. Considering the pros and cons of drawers versus cupboards provides engrossing respite from the operatic demise of American decency.