Lessons from a Construction Site

By Lu Anne Stewart

A new house is being built across the street from mine. When I sit at the computer in my second-floor office, I watch each day’s progress through the window. It has turned out to be not a distraction from my writing but, in an odd way, a source of wisdom about what it takes to get things done.

One day last week, before first light, I heard the grumble and whirr of machinery outside. Peering out the window, I could see massive pieces of equipment lumbering into position on the site. The week before, workmen had scrambled around the lot getting ready to begin laying the foundation. Now, the work had moved into a higher gear. A giant pumping apparatus, some three stories tall, stood on one side of the lot. On the other side was a cement mixer truck, and all around was a beehive of activity. Dozens of workers, pick-up trucks parked willy-nilly on the grassy lot next to the site, tractor-trailers and other delivery trucks lining the street.

All of these people, effort and logistics to lay the foundation for one house!

I’m not a total novice when it comes to the world of construction. My dad was a bricklayer, and one of my most vivid childhood memories was him showing me how to scoop just enough mortar onto the trowel and direct it into the space between the bricks with a certain flick of the wrist.  Years later, in one of my early jobs, I wrote newsletters for a construction company and became conversant in terms like rebar and critical path scheduling.

Still, seeing this feverish display of construction activity outside my window struck me as a thing of wonder. What hard work this was. The pre-planning, the organizing. Getting the right equipment in place. The physical labor. The sheer number of people involved.

As writers, we bemoan how difficult it is to write. The blank page and all of our inner demons defy us to come up with the right words. Yet, the scene that has been unfolding outside my window reminds me that most things worth doing are hard.  In fact, the lessons a writer can glean from watching the construction process turn out to be amazingly relevant. The importance of carefully preparing the foundation. Thinking through each stage of the process. Getting all of the players in their proper places and in the correct order to make the outcome turn out right.

The other day was the beginning of a three-day holiday weekend. But even on that Saturday, things were happening on the site across the street. Several trucks roared up, bearing hundreds of concrete blocks and bags of cement. Workers positioned the supplies in stacks all around the new foundation so that building can begin at first light on the next work day.

It was a good reminder to get back to my writing.


6 thoughts on “Lessons from a Construction Site

  1. Thanks Lu-Anne – Your analogy of fiction writing being a type of construction is very appropriate. I hope your ‘house building’ is going well, with solid foundations and a design that is unique and attention grabbing! Good luck with it all.


  2. I love your analogy, LuAnne. How inspiring staring out your window turned out to be; the creative writer knows how to take lessons where ever they may emerge. The construction site was the ideal reminder of the hard work of constructing our imaginary worlds. As I lay the foundation of my next novel, I’m going to keep your lovely analogy in mind. One brick at a time, just as your father would have done it.


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