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