Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Trusting your gut, even when it changes its mind

I got this desk, and I can't help myself: I think I'm in love.
I know, you all are starting to think I'm a little insane--seriously, read more of the blog, and all doubt will be removed--because who loves a piece of furniture?

I bought a beat up old desk from a second hand store. It had been spray painted white, and I couldn't see the original paint or finish, but I could tell it was real wood and not some crappy particle board thing. I thought, "Well, it's real wood. I'll take it home, give it a light sanding, paint a mural on it and then I'll have a writing desk." The desk had a cracked corner, so I'd need to glue it back together. Someone had used it as a saw horse, so it had a pretty good nick in one end. And the paint job was hideous, but paint could be painted over.

I paid the man ten bucks and stuffed it into my car (never underestimate the trunkspace of a car driven by a woman on a mission), and when I got it home, I started sanding. I think my father misunderstood me and pulled out a belt sander. Figuring that if we could strip it down to the wood, that would be better in the long run anyway, I let him. After all, a mural doesn't care if it's on bare wood or a crummy paint job.

The white layer gave way to a red layer which gave way to layer of grey primer. Under that was a thick varnish and a thick stain.

Under that was real wood.

So I decided to strip it using chemicals (generally faster than power tools), and the first $20 bucks went into the desk. As I worked on getting through the layers, I decided I could stain it blue, and then paint a mural on it. I'd love to have a blue desk. So I bought some stain, some conditioner and some varnish, another $30.

We worked and worked and worked. Two weeks of sanding, stripping, and repairing. By the end, the wood wasn't just nice, it was gorgeous. As in, it wasn't some cheap old desk. In fact, I found the manufacturer's tag. The desk had been made in February of 2005. And I'd been worried about lead paint!

But then it came time for the stain, and the wood was just so beautiful. I already had the stain. And I'd always wanted a blue desk, but well, the wood was beautiful. I took a board that wouldn't be seen and I put the blue stain on one board.

It was hideous.

I just stood there staring at the desk, beautiful pine grain glinting in the sunlight like gold and thinking to myself "well, I already bought the stain, and I wanted a blue desk. I've always wanted a blue desk." But then my stomach would tighten up. "But it's so beautiful as it is."

So I put the stain all back in its container (labeled it hideous and user beware), and went about happily varnishing my desk. No stain. I have a naked desk.

Yup, that shine is what five careful coats of varnish will do.
And I'm in love. Here, see for yourself.

I left that one board stained blue as a reminder. Sometimes, our instincts are great. Sometimes they change. I think when I'm writing I have big ideas that are sort of like the blue desk: reality is hideous, but the natural grain is amazing. Trusting my gut is something I've been having a hard time with, but I'm learning, and boy howdy, I'm glad I followed it for my desk!

And it just wouldn't be my desk without some funny hardware.


  1. It's beautiful. I change my mind all the time, because every idea I have is ALWAYS better than the one before :-) Happy writing, Rena!

  2. The number of times I've come up with what I thought was a great idea for a story scene, only to realize later on that it was terrible, are too numberous to count. That's why we always need beta readers.

  3. Awww! It's soooo pretty! And i love the hardware!

  4. Aren't you the master of the educational tale! Your desk is beautiful. The perfect place to write that masterpiece; where you will sign your huge contract; and where you can endorse those monster checks.

  5. Love your desk. I know what you mean. Sometimes, our instincts change once we have additional information. Sticking to the original gut feeling would just be stupid.

  6. I just posted about trusting my gut (or not), so I kinda wish I'd read this a while ago... bah, who am I kidding, I'd still be second-guessing. @_@ But the desk looks well and truly lovely.

  7. AWESOME. Now that's a desk. I have to say though, I wouldn't have be willing to put in that much work. (Crazy lazy or super busy.) Way to do something right and find a hidden gem.


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