3 Writing Lessons from DIY Projects #AuthorToolboxBlogHop

Welcome to another Author Toolbox Blog Hop post!

I know last month I said I’d talk about villains today, but I’ve stalled on my WIP to the point I volunteered to help my mum decorate rather than work on it. Removing wallpaper from the walls of my childhood living room and preparing them for painting made me realise some things about writing.

Writing Lessons from DIY Projects

Lesson 1: Some things take longer than you expect.

Me and my partner, who I think regrets offering to help, had different expectations of how long it would take to remove wallpaper. He thought it’d take 2 hours, I thought 4. Given we had a steamer, we thought this was a reasonable estimate. Three days later we’re still doing it. We didn’t account for the thickness of the wallpaper, or the amount of fiddly sections where pipes and radiators were mounted to the walls.

Writing can take longer than expected too, be it finishing a first draft, or editing. It’s hard to estimate how long projects will take until you start them. You might find out your writing’s not as good as you thought it was and spend time studying to improve. This happened to me, with the first draft of Dragonspire. I’ve come a long way since then, but I had to start over and redo most of it.

What can we learn from this? Be patient when finishing a story takes longer than expected. You might not have done enough research, and need to do more, or you may get stuck on a scene. Accept that things don’t always run smoothly, don’t put too much pressure on yourself, and allow extra time when setting goals to avoid the stress of not meeting them.

Lesson 2: Projects run more smoothly when you have a good team.

Teamwork lessons in writing from diy

To cut down the amount of time we spent on decorating we divided tasks: I’d do the fiddly bit, taking the top thick layer of paper off, and my partner would go over the second layer with the steamer. We established a routine and shared tips for getting it done faster. It still took longer than expected, but less time than it would have by myself!

When you work as a team you share ideas and make suggestions for improving or working faster. This is true of writing too. We have beta readers, editors, friends to bounce ideas off. In my university workshop group we read each others work and help each other improve. I use my partner to bounce ideas off, as he has a knack for picking up plot holes and helping me work things through.

Develop a good support network for your writing. Make friends in the writing community to share your writing woes with (we’re not scary, I promise!). Find beta readers, and an editor who is not only good at their job, but a good fit for your project.

Lesson 3: Not all projects are easy.

It turns out removing wallpaper is hard work. Even with a steamer the paper wouldn’t come off easily, because the wallpaper on my mum’s walls is so thick. It was easier to work in layers, scraping off the thick patterned layer first and steaming the rest. After that the walls needed cleaning and sandpapering, ready to paint. Not easy, and very time consuming.

writing isnt easy

Writing isn’t easy either. Like the wallpaper removal, story drafting happens in stages. The first draft is almost always rough around the edges, and projects usually need more than one draft before they’re ready for editing and beta readers, let alone release.

Don’t give up if you hit a bump in the road. Writing takes patience, hard work, and a willingness to draft and re-draft until you get it right. Easy? No. Worth it? Yes. Because nothing compares to doing what you love.

Take your time, work at your own pace, and you’ll get there eventually. At least that’s what I keep telling myself! In the meantime, I have more wallpaper to remove, plot and villains to study, family to visit, and I’m back at university next week! All in all, a really busy month, and we’re only halfway through it!

scales divider copy

Thanks for Reading!

Ever removed wallpaper? Started a project you thought would be easy, only to find it really wasn’t? Do your projects take longer than expected? Chat in the comments!

This post is part of the Author Toolbox Blog Hop, hosted by Raimey Gallant. Next month I’ll focus on villains or plot. To read more posts in the hop, click the image below:


My Past Posts: MA Writing Toolbox Posts.
Work experience in Publishing at Penguin Books.
Lessons in Storytelling from TV and Film.

Don’t forget, the new hop rules make it easier to participate: Participants can choose to post every other month, and editors, cover artists, illustrators and others can join us. I’ll probably post most months, with the exception of May when I’ll be sobbing over deadlines!


  1. I think in any project it’s good to decide which has priority, time or quality. We all like the idea of getting 100% of the work done on time, but if the choice is on time or 100%, which matters more?

    I also feel like deadlines can sometimes be harmful, if they’re too tight. I was listening to a podcast recently where an author cited that if they sit down to write, but they have 2 hours or less, the perception of that deadline hampers their writing efforts, whereas if they sit down to write for 4 hours or more, they do far better.

    And some days we are not the same. Whether we sleep well or poorly, or have an unrelated problem churning away in the background, there will be times where “I” am not capable of writing with the same energy or efficiency, and that’s okay.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Usually deadlines motivate me, but if I have too much to do and too little time they stress me out, so I do think they can be harmful.

      I agree, most days I can edit quickly, but if I’ve had a poor night’s sleep or am distracted by other issues I’m a lost cause, it takes longer than usual, and I just end up frustrated!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. If your relationship with your partner survives a wallpaper project, your future together is bright. I speak from experience. All good points in your blog this month! Especially, projects take longer than you expect. Mine always do.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks 🙂 I used to think I’d finish a first draft within a year, but it’s taking me far longer. Mostly because I’m determined to get it right, so I’ve been doing a lot of research, but also because I’m a slow writer who gets too distracted by Netflix!


  3. I love this analogy – although I’m having flashbacks of wallpaper removal from our house in Germany. There were several layers and the house is huge! Parts of the wall crumbled in our hands. Lots of lessons learned – writing and otherwise.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I smiled the entire way through your post. My husband is a professional house painter and he refuses to bid a job where wallpaper has to be removed. He charges for it by the hour because you never know how many hours it might take. And it’s always longer than you expect. LOL
    Perfect comparison to writing. And good job finding an unusual way to procrastinate. LOL

    Susan Says

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s a heck of a job lol. My mum was quoted £100 by an odd job man to remove the wallpaper, which we thought was a bit steep, hence doing it ourselves. Perhaps we should have paid him, as it seems reasonable in hindsight!
      Thanks 🙂 I need to stop procrastinating really!


  5. My projects always take longer than anticipated. It’s frustrating but I am learning to stop rushing changes and let my brain work as it chooses to. Removing wallpaper? It’s been a long, long time 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Great analogy! I’ve never removed wallpaper, but I often find projects take longer than I thought (or I fry my brain, so can’t spend as many hours working as I’d hoped). I’m trying to find some margin, but I tend to keep volunteering for things.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. First off, Louise, removing wallpaper is extremely tedious. My husband and I are trying to do the same thing in a home we’re rehabbing AND in the home where we live. However, sometimes I prefer it to writing–especially when I’m stalling because I don’t know where to go in the story, too. Teamwork is all important, both to home projects and to writing. Thanks for an excellent post!

    Liked by 1 person

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