What Do Decorating a House and Writing a Book Have in Common?

Decor Icon by Billy Alexander at stock.xchngI’m going to make a confession. I’m addicted to decorating and renovation blogs. My favorite three letters are DYI. Do I have time for DYI? Of course not. Proof:  I am still hand quilting the first quilt top I ever made back in, oh, 1990, give or take a year.

Were I to try my hand at those adorable DIY projects I so relentlessly pin on Pinterest, I am sure that in another twenty or so years, I would still own a bottle of Mod Podge, and a plastic pumpkin from Dollar General, waiting breathlessly to come together in an ecstatic love match smothered with old book pages or Liberace style adornments. (If you click on those links, don’t say I didn’t warn you.)

Plain old decorating, though, is a different matter.  Every house needs furniture, paint, something on the walls, And no, pinning photos of fantasy houses on Pinterest is not good enough.  When you walk through your front door you deserve to feel happy and at home without running to your computer.

With that in mind, and with a renovation more or less completed (our crew came back for two days last week), I’m still deciding what to put on floors and walls. Under the circumstances decorating blogs are a guilty but sensible pleasure.

This morning I ran into this blog post.  View Along the Way: The Journey to a DIY Home is like other upbeat, helpful blogs that chronicle the successes and failures of rehabbing and decorating on a strict budget. Along the way we meet the bloggers’ families, share their life stories, and salivate over their finished projects. I’m a writer. I love peeking into other people’s lives. And Kelly’s blog is nicely done.

This post was a bit different. Kelly took the time to explain her six decorating rules. Simple, thoughtful rules. I needed those rules, thanks. How could I resist?

And after Kelly gave permission, how could I resist sharing them with you, since I saw immediately that each one is important for writers, too? So thank you Kelly, for sharing your ideas with your readers.

Now I’ll share mine.

Rule #1:  Kelly says: Don’t decorate for the Joneses.

Emilie says: If you write a novel to please a particular audience, you may well suceed, but it’s even more likely that unless you love that genre or subgenre, the book will be anemic, off-kilter and filled with cliches.

Almost more important?  Even if you write a masterpiece, not everyone will like it.  Got that?  Not everyone will like it.

In the immortal words of Ricky Nelson: “You can’t please everyone, so you’ve got to please yourself.” (Who knew all those years ago when I thought Ozzie and Harriet was so boring, that later in life I would find so many opportunities to quote Ricky?)

Rule #2: Kelly says: Your home, your tastes.

Emilie says:  You have to be able to sit down with a book you’ve written and be moved by the story you’ve told, the characters you’ve portrayed, the writing you labored over.  If you’ve written for someone else’s tastes, you won’t be moved, you’ll be bored.  It’s a simple test.

Rule #3: Kelly says: Don’t fight the season.

Emilie says: This is great advice.  Kelly’s talking about decorating to meet your present situation.  Small children and silk chairs don’t mix.

The same is true with writing.  You’ve always wanted to write a literary masterpiece, but you have exactly twenty minutes before work and an hour after you put the kids to bed to write?  And that’s on a good day.  You might need to save the masterpiece and choose something smaller, less intimidating that you can actually finish and possibly sell. Remember rules #1 and #2 though.  Choose something that you also love.  Be realistic as well as creative.

Rule #4: Kelly says: The rules exist to help you.

Emilie says: While Rules #1 and #2 deal with writing for your own tastes, be sure you understand the basic rules of writing before you decide to break them.  Learn what’s expected in your chosen genre, and don’t set out to write something completely different just to be ornery.  Of course a grasp of grammar and spelling, not to mention proper formatting for submission, is absolutely necessary for writing.

You’d be surprised how many people don’t think so.

Rule #5: Kelly says:  Beautiful rooms take patience.

Emilie says:  So do books.  Don’t slap a book together and stick it online or send it to a publisher without making it the very best it can be.  A book takes time, humility and often professional guidance.  If you’re patient enough to take the time to turn out your best work, your chances of publication and reader enthusiasm increase by the power of ten.

Rule #6: Kelly saysIt’s all temporary.

Emilie says: Not so much with books, unless you’re slapping yours up online and plan to revise at your leisure.  Even then, remember that readers bought and read the first version and might not be so enthused about your next book. In fact they might tell their friends to avoid it based on your slapdash mistakes and lack of respect for their hard-earned dollars.  You’ll hate it if that happens.

What is temporary?  No matter how hard you work on your first book, you’ll find that your writing improves with time and effort.  So while “temporarily” this book might be the best you can produce, you will have more and better books to look forward to if you continuously try to perfect your craft.

The Six Rules of Decorating and Writing.  Our work here is done.

Now yours begins?


  1. Chrystal Maneval on September 26, 2013 at 8:47 am

    I fantasize what my house will look like after watching HGTV and surfing Pinterest. But, alas, I am not a crafty one so ideas never make it any further out of my head. I think some of it is fear too. Fear of failure, that it won’t look as good as I envisioned, or that I’ll do something wrong. Same thing for writing a blog or journal, fear of it not being good or interesting enough that anybody would want to read it. Thank you for a great read!

    • Emilie Richards on September 26, 2013 at 1:31 pm

      Little steps, moving slowly, standing back to see if you like it. But I must confess I agonize about every choice I make. That’s why I liked these rules.

  2. Mary Preston on September 27, 2013 at 11:18 pm

    I can see the obvious connection. I like my house to by comfy & cosy. Not fussed if it’s stylish or not.

  3. Angela on October 5, 2013 at 2:07 pm

    All of these rules should be very helpful. If you can remember that whether decorating your home or writing a book, it is all subjective. What one person may like another may not. Keep in mind your audience, but know that you can always change it. (Reissue, anyone) Don’t let fear hold you back.

Leave a Comment