LAYERS OF CLAY
Why I Write
I’m sitting in my writing cave in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. A large whiteboard–four by six feet–hangs on the gray wall to my right. Reminders about how to not suck at writing are taped to the wall directly before me, just above the horizon of my computer screen. To my left sits a simple white desk with an H-shaped hutch. A gift from a student rests at eye level there, a beautiful paperweight inscribed with this quote:
“Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.” Benjamin Franklin
For those of you perhaps meeting me through this blog tour in which we consider the gobs of different writing processes out there, my name is Clay. I’m a teacher and consultant who writes books, articles, and just about anything really.
Producer/Director Joani Livingston selected me to answer the big four questions making up this internet sock hop. Joani makes documentaries and even has an Emmy under her belt, so be sure to find her on Twitter @LivingstonMcKay and say hello.
So what do I have to say about writing? I can tell you I never intended to be a writer. It just sort of happened. Sometimes you don’t discover the passion of your life for a while. Turns out mine is communicating.
What are you working on?
Sometimes I wonder what am I not working on. I’m currently writing both fiction and non-fiction book projects, so right off the bat you know I’m confused. My brain is like that dog in Up always spazzing over squirrels.
But I’m also a full-time writer in a consulting capacity. Like a day job. When you work as a consultant you could be doing anything on a given day. The variety is insane, actually. One day last week I researched corporate safety strategies, the human rib cage, annual London snowfall rates, 17th century footwear, and New York restaurant consumer trends.
Like my logo says, I’m a Word Tinker, forever tinkering with ideas.
How does your work differ from others of its genre?
Hard to say there’s anything new under the sun, yet we all bring something unique to the writing table. For starters, I’m weird. The analytical, researcher side of my brain studies the market and comes to an understanding of the best way to combine my perspective with salable work.
But then the dominant side of my head—a cerebral discotheque where my quirky muse glides around flashing catwalks—takes over. I do my best to nurture the unorthodox in a thoughtful way so the view my readers get is hopefully different than what everybody else is saying.
History, off-beat humor, and the search for truth also seem to emerge in my work.
Why do you write what you do?
Because it’s what I want to read. Because once you get hold of the rare idea which explodes in your mind and heart you just know you’ll commit to investigating it long-term. I write, as Flannery O’Connor famously said, to discover what I think about things. Ultimately, I write what I write because otherwise I would burst.
How does your writing process work?
Some people follow a strict regimen of predictable output. They sit in the chair every day around the same times and produce roughly the same amount of words.
I am not one of those people.
Here is all that matters: That a writer writes. Every day.
That sparkling disco in my brain often comes alive at night. Yet some mornings I wake with a sudden urge to rip off a thousand words. Some days I work at my desk for ten hours; others I hit the coffee shop for three. You either need routine to effectively function or you find such patterns stifling. I’m in the latter bunch. Give me a dynamic atmosphere. Music almost always plays while I write.
Notes are always involved too, so I often synthesize a number of ideas before a burst of words explodes on the page. An ongoing struggle for me is to avoid getting bogged down in research. I never want to stop feeling things because I’m overthinking.
Am I describing anything like a process? I don’t know, but it’s the best I’ve got.
I Get to Pick Two More Writers?!
Next week you’ll get to hear from Tosca Lee and Melissa Tagg.
Tosca is one of the coolest new writer pals I’ve met this year. She is good ya’ll as evidenced by her title as a New York Times best-selling author. She says her breakout novel Demon: A Memoir about a writer named Clay had nothing to do with me, so I’ll take her at her word. I’m reading Iscariot now which is superb historical fiction. And get ready for her soon to release novel The Legend of Sheba.
Melissa is an author friend I really admire. Long before this blog hop came along I spent many an hour asking her to explain her writing process to me, especially how in the world she manages to crank out so many projects while working a full-time job. Spoiler: It’s not easy. My fellow classic movie connoisseur knows what she’s talking about.
I’m looking forward to hearing from both of these ladies, whether it’s how Tosca writes in silence with no music (gasp!) or how Melissa sometimes makes herself rise before dawn to crank out words before work. Be sure to check them out and buy their terrific novels.
Thanks once again to Joani Livingston for inviting me to be part of the blog tour. I hope you’ll connect with me around the web, and I’d like to hear what you think of writing.
- Are you a writer?
- Does writing sound like a terrible thing to do for a living?
- What do you create?
- Do you have a process for that?
Let me know in the comments. Also, I’ve been long wanting to reintroduce a regular column. Well, it has begun, so make with the clicky in that little orange rectangle below and get updates here at NorvilleRogers.com!