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Why Writing is Like Laying Bricks

Giacomo & Slick

Anything Good Takes Time.

I have read a lot of articles and advice from people about writing, and how writers should just write. Hurry up and write. Write. Write. Write. Somewhere in the article they mention, in passing, about making sure the quality is there, but the focus usually shifts back to writing fast so you can get more books out and help sell your other books.

These experts come armed with impressive data, showing that the more books you write and the more books you have available to sell, the more money you’ll make. I have to admit, it’s a good sales pitch. Unfortunately, I think many writers are heeding their advice.

So What’s Wrong With That?

I see a problem with that process. I got to thinking about my favorite restaurants. (If you’ve been following my blog posts you’ll know that food and coffee are very high on my list of passions, so all thoughts usually go back to one of those.)

So anyway, I thought, the reason I keep going back to the same restaurants is because they always serve me great food. The calamari is done to perfection, the seafood ravioli I have no words to describe, and the tiramisu…fahgettaboutit!

I’m a picky individual. My wife would add four or five adjectives prior to the word “picky,” and a few of those adjectives I wouldn’t put in print, but that’s neither here nor there. Yes, I am picky, and if that restaurant didn’t serve me absolutely magnificent food, I wouldn’t go back. I don’t really care how fast they serve my food. If the meal is a little late, I’ll have another cappuccino, or another glass of wine while I chat with my wife. In any case, anticipation makes the meal taste better, doesn’t it?

What Does This Have to Do With Writing?

My wife and I got married young, and the only job I could get was construction. I became a bricklayer. One day I was up on the scaffold laying brick and the owner of the company came by. I was full of youthful zeal and wanted to make an impression, so I laid bricks as fast as I could. After a few minutes, he called me down from the scaffold.

“You were going mighty fast up there, young man.”

I beamed with pride, dreaming of a raise even as he spoke. “Yes, sir.”

He placed his arm on my shoulder and started walking along the scaffold at the bottom of the wall. About halfway down he stopped and pointed to a spot maybe ten feet up. “You do all this work?”

“Yes, sir.” Now I knew the raise was coming.

He nodded, then he said, “You see those two bricks up there? The ones sittin’ crooked in the wall.”

I gulped, and quickly realized there would be no raise. “Yes, sir.”

“The crazy thing about bricks, is that a hundred years from now, after we’re long gone, they’re still gonna be there. And maybe somebody will be standing right where we are and looking up at that pretty wall. And then one of them is gonna say, ‘look at those crooked bricks.’ When they see those bricks, they’re not going to wonder how fast you laid them, they’ll just know they’re crooked.”

Crooked bricks


I nodded my head. And I knew what I had to do. I went back up the scaffold, took the bricks off the wall, and started relaying them—straight.

Back to the Books

Straight! That’s the way I like my books. I don’t want someone picking up one of my books five, or ten, or fifty years from now and wondering how fast I wrote them. I want them to sit down and enjoy them. Maybe over a good cup of coffee. Maybe over a chat with their spouse.


Ciao, and thanks for stopping by,




Giacomo Giammatteo is the author of Murder Takes Time, and A Bullet For Carlos. He lives in Texas where he and his wife have an animal sanctuary with 41 loving “friends.”




  • http://ultimate-indivisibility.com Brent Robison

    Yes! So happy to see the quality and craft message for a change, in the sea of marketing and profit blather that seems to have taken over the self-publishing dialogues these days. Thank you.

    • http://giacomogiammatteo.com Giacomo Giammatteo

      Thanks, Brent. I guess I’m old school, but I still think if you make a quality product, word will spread.

  • http://jim-murdoch.blogspot.com/ Jim Murdoch

    I’ve been drawing people’s attention recently to an article in The Guardian written by Kathleen Jamie and I recommend it to you. Two quotes in particular: “[B]eginning a new work is not a matter of finding a topic to write ‘about’. First of all but you've to spend time – years! – frequenting the scrapyard or the sewing box, cobbling together a new self, then letting it find its way.” and “It seems to me that if you know precisely what you've done, or are going to do, then it's a project. Projects are not art. Art proceeds without a map.”

    I agree wholeheartedly with her here. I’ve also encountered those online who bang on about getting books out there and it’s a perfectly logical argument: the more potential landing sites there are the greater the chance someone will find you. I’m lucky because I’ve been writing for a long time and so do have a decent back catalogue but I’m completely incapable of speeding up how I work. I finished my last novel about eighteen months ago and all I’ve written in the interim have been a handful of poems (discounting the 300,000+ words I’ve blogged) and in the past I would have been fine about that but being around those who churn out story after story (I have never been a storyteller) is, frankly, a bit depressing.

    • http://giacomogiammatteo.com Giacomo Giammatteo

      I don’t know, Jim. I would certainly encourage you not to be depressed. Everyone works differently, and with writing in particular, I think we have to do what works best for each of us.

    • http://pigeonweather.wordpress.com Tom Lichtenberg

      It’s striking how very different the experience of writing is for different people, yet so many writers discuss their own experience as if it were ‘the way’. I found the Kathleen Jamie article quite interesting and yet so foreign to me personally. Thanks for the linkage.

      • http://giacomogiammatteo.com Giacomo Giammatteo

        Tom, I agree. Every writer has their own style, just like their own voice. You can’t force another style on that writer or it won’t work. You can pick up tips and tricks and work them into your routine, but I don’t think you can ever say one person’s way is “The right way.”

  • Iivin

    Yeah I think the issue to be sorted in one’s heart is ‘what are you writing for?’