Behind the Sentences with... Daniel J O’Malley
Daniel J O'Malley is shortlisted for his story, Simon
Where do you work? Describe your space, what it looks and feels like, and what you like about it (maybe what you don't like), and why it’s a conducive place to write...
I have a few spaces that I cycle through – couch, chair, desk, porch. Sometimes, just the move from one seat to another is helpful. We have a room that’s mostly filled with books, art supplies, building blocks – the “work room,” our daughter calls it. She and I do a lot of drawing and painting together. I like being among those supplies and works in progress when I’m writing. I have a tendency to sit and stare at things. When we’re painting, I can get kind of lost in the process and be surprised, and it’s always my hope to have that experience with stories, too.
What is your writing routine? Are you a morning or evening person, do you have any rituals associated with your writing? What happens if your routine isn’t adhered to?
My routine is fairly basic – I get up most days by five and drink too much coffee and try to stay focused for the two hours or so before the rest of the house wakes up. In that way, I’ve become a morning person. There was a mildly punishing aspect to it at first, but I’ve come to really appreciate that time. My brain works differently in the morning. If I don’t get up early and get some work done, I start to feel like forces are conspiring against me.
Do you have any writer “habits” – bad or otherwise? Any common words that you notice in every paragraph, or typos you make, specific pens or notebooks, or do you have to have a snack at the same time every day, for example?
I’m sure I go through phases of repetition with this or that word or sentence arrangement, but I try not to think much about it. I don’t think much about specific pens or notebooks or things like those either. The work that feels the most lively to me often gets done, or at least gets started, with whatever happens to be around. Lately that means yellow notepads and blue pens.
What happens when you stop writing? Away from the page, what do you do to relax; or what happens if you have writers' block? Do you have any tricks to escape it? How do you reward yourself or celebrate after the completion of a story or manuscript, or on publication day?
I’m always working on several things at once, so when a story gets finished, there’s always another one waiting. That’s the trick with getting stuck as well – just work on something else for a while. Apart from writing, what I like most is making things with my family. Our daughter has started making little books, which are wonderful. She’s five. For a few years now she and I have been doing collaborations, mainly with acrylics and watercolours – nothing more rewarding than that. A lot of those get shared on Instagram, which she and I both get a kick out of. My wife and I have a son as well. He’s nearing eleven months. With him, I like to build towers with wooden blocks, sometimes really nice ones, and then I get to watch him do some destruction.