Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Hardest Writing is Showering

by Clare O'Donohue

This week's question: Where does the writing muse strike you?


I've said this before but it's very true for me - sometimes writing is like molding soft clay with my fingers, and other times it's like carving granite with a spoon. When it's easy, the words come faster than I can type, the characters surprise me, and the whole process feels like I'm merely the typist, transcribing the movie playing in my head.

It's amazing. Almost magical.

But when it's not... well... it's performance art. It's me, suddenly aware that the tub needs a good scrubbing, or I haven't alphabetized my spices, or ever watched all 456 episodes of Law & Order in sequence. It's Facebook binges, and internet shopping, and repeatedly re-reading the last few chapters I've written in the hopes that something sparks me (which it doesn't.)

It's the episode of the Dyke Van Dyke Show where Rob decides to finish his book but can't even get started. When his wife, Laura, asks why he isn't writing, he explains that every moment in a writer's life is writing... “Pacing is writing; brushing your teeth; the hardest writing is showering.” And she points out that the one thing that isn't writing is explaining writing.

Eight books in and writing is still hard work. And the hardest part is that each book has its own weird challenges. Some, including my latest in the Someday series, The Double Wedding Ring, are difficult to start. No scene, no characters, jumped out at me, and I just kept staring at the blank screen with no idea where to go. Others, like Life Without Parole, were half way through before I hit the wall. I was flying along and then, WHAM. Nothing. Just staring for a long while, before finally, slowly a trickle of an idea turned into the rest of the book.

Missing Persons, the first Kate Conway book, came out of me so fast it quite literally hurt. I could not write fast enough to keep up with where that book went, and I described it (forgive me) as vomit writing. Every time I would walk away from the computer another idea would hit and I'd go back with more to spill out. I'd even wake up in the middle of the night, unable to sleep until I put a scene on paper. It was exhausting and it was really cool. But I'm not sure I want that experience again.

Why was the muse so insistent with that book, and so absent with others? I don't know. Every writer in the world will tell you that the best way to write a book is to put your butt in a chair. If you wait for it to be "right" you'll never get past the dedication. And that's true.

But why some days it's easier than others? Where that the inspiration come from? I don't have a clue. If I did, I would bottle it and keep it close for the next staring-at-the-screen day. In the meantime, I have to go see what Jack McCoy and the gang are doing in season 11...



7 comments:

Robin Spano said...

Yeah, that's very well said! Inspiration doesn't flow any more reliably with experience, does it?

Meredith Cole said...

Nice post, Clare! I always say that you can tell that my writing isn't going well when my house is very, very clean...

Clare ODonohue said...

Meredith - It's the same for me. yesterday I cleaned out my junk drawer, and the cabinet under my bathroom sink, so... yeah.

Sherry Harris said...

Clare, no one would ever know from reading The Double Wedding Ring that you had a hard time writing it. I can't wait to read the rest of your books.

Art Taylor said...

I enjoyed your post, Clare—and the funny quote from Dick Van Dyke! ...though what's odd is that the shower is one of the places where I do my best thinking!

Clare ODonohue said...

Thanks Sherry. That's also the odd part - how easy or hard it was doesn't seem to affect the book in the end.

And Art - Clearly you've mastered the tough writing. For me, it's just before I fall asleep, computer off, lights off - ideas hit.

Susan C Shea said...

Well said, Clare. The agony days are hard to figure out, since there are also the times in the zone. It's a mystery...