A good friend recently asked me how I get inspired to write, and I said that I don’t get inspired. I just sit down and start typing. I say things like that because I am a narcissistic asshole.  Secretly there are all sorts of things I do to help me feel creative. For starters, I listen to ridiculously loud music every time I drive my car. My kids scream at me to turn it down. Sometimes they cry about it. Maybe when they start driving they will rebel by listening to light jazz at a barely audible level, like a boring old grandma, but for now they are forced to ride with me. Lately, I have also been really into songs that have the word “motherfucker” in the lyrics. Saying motherfucker is great, but singing it is truly inspiring.

The result is that I love going places. Maybe I can hear one song between my house and the grocery store, but it is enough to recharge me. By the time I hit the produce section I am feeling pretty great about myself. What a bad-ass motherfucker I am picking out this bunch of kale! When I get home and sit down to start typing I remember that feeling, and I get the insane idea that I am putting on some kind of show with my words, even if I am the only one in the audience. I love it when I make myself laugh or, even better, when I make myself uncomfortable. If I cringe, then I know it is good.

I also like to go for long walks, while listening to loud music. When I am on a walk with my headphones, I feel completely transported into the music and into my own imagination. It is an absolute miracle that I have never been hit by a car. Maybe I should start wearing a helmet. Sometimes I will get a great idea, maybe just a line or two, and I will type notes into my phone, while walking and blaring music. When I get back to the house I am all revved up (happy to still be alive), and I scroll through my notes and try to craft something from the scraps. Sometimes the notes are abstract, and I don’t know how they connect, for instance right now I have a note that reads, “I saw the Pieta in a moldy porch screen.” Then after that I have a longer reflection:

“You know when you walk through a spider web and then freak out, start swatting your hair, spinning in circles, stomping your feet and screaming, and then you fall to the ground and the spider eats you alive? That is what divorce feels like.”

There is a story there. I can see a thread between seeing something beautiful in an unlikely place and the discomfort and fear that comes with getting divorced. But I also have to make it funny. Fuck. Then I scroll down and under the spider web note I see a third entry that says, “I was disappointed there were no good looking guys in my mandatory divorce class.” Somehow the pieces start to pull themselves together like magnets. If I say that I just sit down and start typing—as if it is that easy—then it is only because every other minute, when I am not writing, I am preparing to write. That is the dirty secret that is too scary to say.



  1. aviets · November 4, 2013

    I’m with you 100%! Yesterday as I walked into work I realized I hadn’t been dreading the experience as I usually do because I’d had one of my favorite bands cranked and was singing at the top of my lungs the whole way there. 🙂 -Amy at

  2. Michelle Myers Murphy · November 5, 2013

    this is brilliant Hillary.

  3. Bill Bielecky · November 5, 2013

    Very musing. Funny, over the years I’ve heard the worst comments on writing from writers. David Mamet was asked in an NPR interview by a caller what chance he had of getting a screenplay sold in Hollywood, and Mamet answered “Zero.” Then he explained why we are all wasting our time pipe dreaming about being him. I wanted to punch him, but he would probably like that.

    I started reading Bird by Bird, I love that anecdote (I made my kids read the back cover of that story). But I now have something like 7 books open at various phases, just got hooked on Johnny Carson bio that just came out. Meanwhile I have more law cases than I can possibly manage. I feel like Doug Lyons. I have to stop, but I just keep getting deeper, and the scams keep getting bigger, and…fuckin A, isnt there a novel in this shit somewhere?? I might have to just write a memoir. Think I’ll call it “Helping Kevin Payne.”

    So are you going to have some time when you’re in town? Let me know what works for you, dinner, drinks, lunch, paintball.

  4. The Episcolic · June 12, 2014

    I like you. I read your article on Huffington Post Divorce, and so much of what you said reminded me so much of what I’m going through. I clicked the link to your blog and tried to find the same entry in duplicate so I could reply, but I guess you didn’t actually write it for your blog. Duh. I searched “spider web” and found this entry, and I find it, too, terribly relatable. Same with several others I read while skimming to find the nonexistant duplicate entry.

    There weren’t any good-looking guys in my mandatory divorce class, either. But listening to the other people talking on our smoke breaks was uplifting. Like when one said he wanted to hit the bitch, but the other cautioned him against it. At least I’m better off than them! Or else I, too, am a narcissistic asshole. (My soon-to-be ex would confirm that.)

    • ringhillary · June 13, 2014

      I am glad you can relate! I did not put the spider web essay on the blog because it is so personal, so instead I sent it out to a national publication, kind of thinking it would never get published. Life is funny.

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