"What do writers do when they're not writing?"
It's a question I--and many author colleagues--get asked frequently. I suspect we have widely varying answers, though these answers have one thing in common: A desire to plunge into something completely apart from writing as a way to stay fresh.
For me, the most recent non-writing project has been the rehabbing of a house. Well, not a REAL house exactly, but...well...a doll house. Here's the story: My middle daughter, mother of four-year-old twins and their two-year-old sister, asked whatever happened to her old doll house. That led my wife, Janet, to suggest it would be nice to fix up that old doll house as a surprise for the girls--and their mother.
Boy, did it need fixing! It had spent decades in the attic, enduring viscissitudes of extreme cold and extreme heat. Then during an attic clean-up, it got moved to the garage, if anything a worse environment.
Where to start? The tar paper on the roof was in shreds. The once-white sides of the two-story colonial now were a pallid and stained gray. The front door was off, hinges long gone. The wallpaper in every room, which my daughter had so painstakingly applied, had peeled and discolored. And on and on.
Fortunately, a miniaturist friend suggested I go to Hobby Lobby, a nearby chain store with a dandy selection of doll house materials and accessories. For the next few weeks, I was a regular there, frequently the only man in the sprawling emporium. First I bought cedar shakes, applying them to the roof a row at a time. Then hinges for the now-bright-red front door and new paint for the exterior. Then after removal of wallpaper, paint for the walls, a different color in each room. And flooring--white patterned tile for the kitchen, hardwood for the bedrooms, carpeting for the living room.
Janet resurrected doll house furniture and people that had been put away in boxes years ago, and we furnished the "fixer upper." Would the little girls like it? Janet cautioned me that they might well be blase and move on to the many toys we keep at our house for them.
But happily for this aging do-it-your-selfer, they loved the "new" dwelling, and the three stood shoulder-to-shoulder as they moved furniture and doll house people around in the newly rehabbed rooms as their mother looked on with approval.
Now about those things that need doing in our "real" house...