Monday, 22 August 2016

Building on Firm Foundations

Like many people, we are on holiday at the moment. I am staying in Cornwall with my in-laws, looking out of the window at St Michael’s Mount - what bliss!

One of the things we are enjoying whilst here is the fruition of my husband’s parents’ decades long dream of building a house from scratch. This has been in their minds for as long as I’ve known them, and many years before. 

Pouring concrete for firm foundations
This week is foundation week, and we’ve all watched excitedly as thirty cubic metres of concrete has been poured into trenches. It’s a very exciting time in the plan, because having been through the process of finding the site, designing the house, and finding architects and contractors, proper building can finally start. 

It got me wondering about house building as a metaphor for writing. There are those wondrous times we can see real progress on the page in the shape of actual volume of material, but lots of work has to go on beneath the surface before a book, poem, article or suchlike appears on the top. 

So what do we need to do to get from the dream to the reality? What builds a good foundation for writing?

It may sound simple, but knowing where you’re starting from and where you hope to finish is a important part of writing. Even if I’m writing a short article, or some boring bit of web copy, I still try to think of it in terms of a story. Where am I starting? Where do I want to get to? How do I get from one to the other? 

Then comes the nitty gritty of the planning - time to put your architect’s hat on! What’s going where? How is this bit going to link to this other bit? Where can I put in those ideas I really like so they’ll fit in with everything else? Figuring out how the sum of many parts can make a whole is an infuriating time for a lot of us, but I don't think we get away without doing it.

After all that, finally, comes the practical stage. Project management is something we all have to do. As much as our WIP might be calling us, we still have to figure out our time. In my life it’s to do with finding time for writing when I also have to shop, cook, clean, finish decorating the kitchen, wash the PE kits, take the cats to the vet…. you get what I mean! Fitting everything in can be a huge task, and project managing my day so that I get a good, uninterrupted time to write is a major achievement. 

Writing doesn’t just demand one part of us. We have to take the role of architect, surveyor, designer, builder, project manager. An electrician to give it some buzz and power. A plumber to keep things flowing. What a relief that we have an awesome God, who has an awesome plan. However we are doing with the process of our writing, he has ideas beyond our belief with what to do with it. As the architect from the beginning of time described in Genesis, to the story teller who shares his story of love through the gospels; we are never the only ones involved in our projects. 

Abbie has been writing ever since she could hold a pencil. She wrote a memoir, Secret Scars, (Authentic, 2007), and later, Insight Into Self-Harm (CWR, 2014). She founded and directs Adullam Ministries, an information and resource website and forum about self-harm and related issues. She blogs at Pink and Blue Mummyland and tweet as @AbbieRobson and @AdullamSelfHarm. She lives in Rugby with husband John and two children.


  1. So true Abbie and very well put. Thank you

  2. Ooh, what a blessing to have in-laws in sight of St Michael's Mount! We have to rent a cottage to be there ... but we did discover that my husband's great-great-great (maybe even another great there?) grandparents lived in Marazion and their son Thomas Hawke Thomas became a coastguard, when the coastguard service was just being formed. Hope the house is built firmly on the rock!

  3. That's a great analogy, and really helpful. Thank you.