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Painting (and Life), Not Exactly as Advertised



No time for my usual full-fledged, navel-gazing missive this week, I’m afraid. I’ve just been too busy. Not finishing the floor tile in the back hall as you might expect after last week’s post, but painting the master bedroom instead.

I truly like painting. I kinda get a zen thing going on when I’m in the “paint zone.” Painting takes your mind off things, especially once you get a good, steady rhythm going. It’s not particularly taxing, but, like driving, it still requires your undivided — if only partially conscious — attention to keep from having an accident.

What makes me crazy about painting, however, is that is doesn’t involve as much, well, painting, as one would hope. Advertising, DIY flyers, and every damn RomCom that has ever sought to depict an attractive couple painting a room, are, not to mince words, full to the brim with crap!

Check out these morons from the Women’s Day decorating site, for example: They’ve obviously just got their requisite bout of pre-painting playfulness out of the way by having an exuberant, romantic paint fight. But staged paint fights are as phony as Hollywood fist fights — no furniture or flooring ever gets ruined in the case of the former, and nobody ever seems to lose a tooth in the latter. In real life, things — and teeth — get damaged.

And don’t even get me started on the fact that they’ve rolled out a giant island of paint onto the middle of the wall with nary an attempt to first cut-in their surrounding interior corners or maintain a proper “wet edge” necessary for recommended coverage as one moves neatly from one end of the wall to the other.

Rolling the paint on the wall is the best part of painting, but actually undertaking to paint a room requires more than simply showing up with your roller and some product from Benjamin Moore. It’s like . . . well, in many ways it’s not unlike sex, I guess. You don’t just get to jump right in. It requires a reasonable investment of time and no small amount of effort dedicated to “prep” work in one form or another. When all is said and done, you’re pretty much committed to at least a minimal level of, shall we say, foreplay, if you’re to have any hope of real success.

For the five minutes it might take me to smoothly roll out 100 square feet of wall, it’s taken me ten times that amount of time to move the furniture out of the way, cover it, repair any damage to the surface that is about to be painted, sand the wall and trim to better accept the new paint, repaint or mask off the affected trim, tape off the heaters, remove the electrical plug and light switch covers, take down the draperies, and complete the “cutting in” on all the interior corners and trim on the wall which I’m about to paint. (The related parallelism of the afore-mentioned sexual metaphor, I’ll leave with you to explore on your own time…)

Everything other than the actual “rolling” out of the wall with paint, I don’t particularly enjoy. But it’s a means to an end. And I enjoy the “end” enough that I just kinda put my head down and muddle through the “means” part as necessary. Which, I suppose, encapsulates so much of what we find ourselves doing in our day-to-day lives. Working 50ish weeks a year to get two or three off for holiday. Paying down a mortgage for most of our lives in order to enjoy true home “ownership” for at least a few years before we die.

And this certainly seems to hold true for writing as well. The actual joy of sitting down and having the opportunity to compose something — unencumbered by anything else for even the briefest of moments — is the sweet spot of the whole process. But it’s the tip of the iceberg. So much of the real work of writing — research, editing, marketing, networking, publishing, and generally finding the motivation to  drag your ass to your desk every day — lies below the water. Where it’s dark. And murky. And cold.

Still, the “prep work” is simply too significant a portion of any endeavour — of our existence — not to try to figure out a way of attempting to enjoy it, of embracing it, as an integral part of the process. (Crap, that sounds a lot like that cloying “It’s not the destination, it’s the journey” refrain, doesn’t it. Sorry. But shut up — mine’s better.)

Maybe the answer is simply more foreplay. What was the question again?

Photo credit:



  1. Robin says:

    Totally agree with you about the foreplay. You’ve got to fill, sand, tape, and cut in before you can really get rolling. And I do like to roll. But I also get shivery when I work on the trim, and swirl a brush around knobs and stuff. Er . . . this is painting a room I’m talking about, right?!

    • Philster999 says:

      Uhm . . . yeah, knobs and stuff will typically require a little extra, er, attention. (Is it getting warm in here or is it just me?)

      You’ll have to excuse me for a moment — I think I need to go clean my brushes . . .

  2. bronxboy55 says:

    You’re right — the payoff in most activities is what follows all the prep work. We usually see only the glamorous results, so it’s easy to forget the drudgery that went into producing those results.

    By the way, the man in the photo — the one with the stripe of blue paint across his back — isn’t he that Tom Marshall guy in your recent poster for the public reading?

    • Philster999 says:

      Yeah, that Marshall guy’s a bit of a chameleon. And I’m glad you clarified what photo you were referring to — at first I though you were about to suggest he resembled the primate in the beret at the start of this post. And that would have been one cat fight I’m not sure this comments section could have accommodated! LOL! PJ

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