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Friday, July 23, 2010


Friday Speak Out!: Writing Is Hazardous to My Health, Guest Post by Claudia Mundell

Writing Is Hazardous to My Health

by Claudia Mundell

Do you ever think too much about writing? Do you ever forget what you’re doing, become lost in your imaginary world? Are you ever driving, overlook where you are going, and forget YOU are the one at the wheel? Is thinking in scenes while driving as dangerous as texting while driving?

I have to be cautious to not work on a story right before dashing to the grocery store. If I am not careful, I am pinching rutabagas while pondering the right word to describe a passionate embrace and moaning in vicarious pleasure while other shoppers look on. Or I might plan some murderous deed while clutching the steering wheel in a death grip and not realize the bumper up ahead is just that--a mere bumper and not a target to annihilate.

I remember that May Sarton often left poems on her desk unfinished for months while seeking the exact word. Sometimes I wiggle sentences and juggle words knowing a poem has some ragged edges yet. I realize the work needs to be honed a bit, sharpened like a kitchen knife that won’t slice a tomato clean and precise. So I mull over words, sticking in and taking out, trying to find the optimum one. It is like having a ring of keys in your hand and knowing one will fit the lock if you can just find it.

Women are multi-taskers and jugglers, always having several balls in the air. So I often try doing household tasks between running trips to the computer. Put a load of laundry in, write a line; brown chops, write a love scene; dash off two paragraphs and remake the bed with clean linens. It usually works well but can lead to disaster. I was writing one day when sounds of gunfire echoed through the house. I thought, “Oh, the dastardly criminals are loose again.” But wait a minute, there are no guns in my story! Bam, another pop and I sniffed a sulfur smell. Eggs!

I went to the kitchen to find a pan of eggs had boiled dry of any water and were in the process of exploding all over my kitchen. Yes, I had set a timer, but its gentle ding was lost somewhere in the 1800’s as a pioneer woman tried to parley with a Comanche for the safety of her daughter.

A cell phone can be put in my purse; a computer can be put in sleep mode. But my mind, what there is left of it, is hard to turn off. It races on all the time. So if the police scanner broadcasts a hit and run accident, it might be me tooling down the street thinking the fender I just hit was a log in river while I was padding for Lewis and Clark. Then again, I have been known to step off the curb in front of traffic while my head was in the clouds. Writing can be hazardous to my heath!

Claudia McKinney Mundell is mother of two sons and grandmother to Mason. She lives with her recently retired husband in Carthage, Missouri. Claudia finds it so satisfying to work hard on a piece and bring it to a creative completion. Once she starts writing a story, it is hard to leave it and come back to the real world for ordinary things like cooking and cleaning. Other hobbies are knitting, reading, collecting Blue Willow dishes, and drinking good tea.

Visit her blog at:


Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!


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Blogger Lisa said...

This post made me laugh right out loud. I've burned meals, forgotten laundry and boiled eggs into oblivion. Our cats now know how to wheel my chair into the kitchen when they can't wait another second for dinner. The power of teamwork is not lost on them.

It's the fun part and the downside to having an active imagination and drive. But I'd rather think of my story than the boring budget for some project. I'll take this - even if it's bad for my health!

Thank you for the great post.

5:17 PM  
Blogger Jenny said...

Great post! I really enjoy her writing!

8:43 PM  

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