Tag Archives: Bodily functions

Writing is Vomiting: An Extended Analogy by the distinguished Dr. Chris Crowe

I’m not exactly sure why Carol and Ann Dee chose to name their blog “Throwing Up Words,” but when I woke up at 4:48 this morning, it occurred to me that their blog label is more apt than even they may have imagined.

In many ways, very many ways, writing is like vomiting:

•                     it occurs only after some rumination

•                     there’s usually some internal stirring that signals it’s about to—or needs to—happen

•                     the process is usually difficult and unpleasant

•                     you feel much better when it’s over

And everyone who has ever experienced writing or vomiting knows that the end result of vomiting/writing is always the same: what was once inside is now outside.

Just as writing varies by author and genre, vomiting varies by puker and content, but there’s really no essential distinctive quality of vomit.  Minor differences exist in the mode of emission and in the content of the vomitus, but when it comes right down to it (or perhaps, right up to it) vomiting is vomiting is vomiting, regardless of what you call it:


















Because vomiting comes so naturally, some people, such as the famous basketball coach Bobby Knight, believe that writing is no big deal.  “All of us learn to write in the second grade,” the grumpy coach once said to a bunch of sports writers.  “Most of us go on to greater things.”

Of course, vomiting is even easier than writing because it doesn’t have to be learned.  If something nasty gets inside us and doesn’t want to stay there, it’ll find its way out whether we want it to or not (and if it’s really nasty, it’ll use both exit ports at the same time).  That doesn’t mean, however, that all vomiting is automatic.  Some people, because they’re sick—physically or emotionally—try to induce to vomiting.  That’s another parallel to writing, isn’t it?  When writers are blocked, they’ll go to great lengths to unleash the partially-digested words within.

Different kinds of emetics exist for writers and pukers.  Pukers use the handle of a spoon, their index finger, or a teaspoon of ipecac syrup to trigger their spew.  Old time pukers (and old-time doctors) used a dose of algarot or antimony to purge the body of icky stuff in the gut.  Writers have emetics of their own.  Old-timers like William Faulkner or Ernest Hemingway relied on liquor to help them throw up words—and sometimes their lunches, too.  Some hard-core writers have snorted coke or mainlined heroin to nauseate the muse lurking in their bellies.  The more genteel among us use different methods to launch the spew of words: freewriting, pacing, guilt, goals, deadlines, and other such stuff.

But what I really wanted to get in this rambling barfy blog is the real genius in the title of Carol and Ann Dee’s blog: we can classify writers much the same way we can classify vomiters.  Here are some classifications I’ve come up with.  I’ve even added some names that seem to fit each category well.  I’m sure you’ll be able to find a category that suits you or one of your writing buddies:

Buffet Vomiters: the writers who can and do publish every kind of book for every kind of audience (Rick Walton)

Bulimic Vomiters: the absurdly prolific writers who can’t make themselves stop writing (Meg Cabot, Jessica Day George, Carol Lynch Williams, James Patterson)

Closed-mouth Swallowers: people who write often and well but refuse to stop rewriting or to submit their work (Cheri Earl)

Dry-heavers: writers who write lots of first lines or first pages but nothing else (most of us at one time or another)

Nauseated Non-emitters: people who constantly feel like writing but never get around to doing it (most of us at one time or another)

Pepto-Bismal Addicts: writers who are masters of avoidance, who find varied and ingenious ways to avoid writing (Chris Crowe)

Projectile Vomiters:  writers whose books make a very loud and a very big splash (James Dashner, Shannon Hale, Stephenie Meyer, JK Rowling, Sara Zarr)

Seinfeld Vomiters (“I haven’t thrown up since June 29, 1980”): writers who never get around to that next book (Chris Crowe, Harper Lee, Margaret Mitchell. . . notice how subtly I’ve managed to place myself among such lofty company?)

Spit-uppers: prolific writers who write short books (Rick Walton)

Sprayers: writers who vainly try to stifle their own flow (sometimes I wish there were more writers like this)

If I’ve whetted your appetite for more information about vomiting, check out this fine wikipedia article on the art and practice of puking: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vomiting


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Ann Dee: A Mystery

Dear You Guys,

How are you? I’m fine. The other day my husband told me our sink smelled like pee.

What do you mean? Like pee pee?

He said, Yes, like pee pee.

Like human pee?

Yes, human pee.

This was disgusting and made me feel sick and mad at him because he had to be exaggerating and who did he think he was accusing my kitchen of being pee-y?

I went in there. The smell was overwhelming.

Gross, I said.

I know, he said. And I’ve been trying to find what it is for like a half hour.

I took another deep breath. It was disgusting.

I’ll find it, I said.

Good luck, he said.

So I started my search. I picked up the rag. Gross but not pee-y. I tried the disposal. Nothing. I checked under the sink. Nope. On and on I looked, the half an avocado, the sponge, the bananas, the dish soap. Nothing. I scrubbed down the countertop, the sink, the faucet, all of it. The smell was still there.

Finally, I took a step back and looked at the big picture. Something. I was missing something. Pee doesn’t just spontaneously combust onto the scene.

Then I saw it.

I saw it there plain as day

And it broke my heart.

My flowers.

I had received bulbs for Christmas. I was excited for a lot of reasons. I have always dreamed of having plants in my house. Plants that live. I like the idea of fresh flowers. But even more than that, I love the fact that bulbs hold something secret in them, they transform. Bulbs=Potential.

The day after I got them I read the directions, carefully prepared the soil, and planted away. After two weeks they started to grow. I have to admit I was a little shocked. I knew that growing, turning into a flower, all that stuff was the plan, but it was crazy that it was actually happening.

Look at my flowers, guys, I’d say.

Cam and my three year old and one year old would gather around in the kitchen.

Do you see how tall the are?

And they were tall.

Yeah, three year old said.

Mommy did that, I said.

Wow, he said.

The other two were eating mini spooners and ignoring me.

And life went on.

I never thought about those fllowers except for almost all the time. Were they okay? Did they have enough water? What did “keep moist but not wet” mean?

Then one day, one dark cold January day, my flowers bloomed.  It was a Christmas miracle.

And then they smelled like pee.

I am now going to relate this experience to my writing.

Like when I was so excited about this book I’m working on. Only an idea at first, but a big fat bulb of an idea. I could envision in my head how beautiful it was going to be. Thick and long and luscious but complicated. Oh so complicated.

I did all the steps, I prepared, I thought things through, I started writing, carefully writing, and things were looking good.

The novel was growing.


I had actually stuck to some of my new years goals and I was seeing results.

And just when I thought, oh my beautiful flower of a novel, the unexpected happened.

Carol talks about icky middles. Today I am talking about pee middles. The problem with me is, I feel like if I can just push through, just endure the smell, the blooms will get the chance to fully open.

Don’t they smell better once they are fully open?

But maybe they don’t. Maybe I should stop now and throw the flower away. Should I throw the flowers away? How do you know when you should throw flowers away? And do you throw away something beautiful even if it stinks just a little?

Do you ever have a book in your head, people you love, a story you want to tell and you work and you work and you work and you feel like you’re almost there and then all the sudden you start smelling pee? You think, I can’t do this. It’s falling apart and maybe it really is falling apart. Maybe it will always smell like that. You think maybe I should throw this away. Should I throw this away?

I am writing in circles.

What I’m trying to say is writing is hard. There are so many moments of self-doubt. So many complications. So many things to think about.

It’s hard.

Hard but exciting.

Exciting because you are creating. You are turning an idea into something real. You are making potential a reality. That’s what art is, right? Potentialities? Things becoming? Something small, an inkling really, turning into something tangible?  A flower that wasn’t there before? A pee flower that smells up your whole kitchen that wasn’t there before? Who wouldn’t want to be a writer?

I need to not write these blog posts late at night.


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