Writer Talks: A Chat With Writer and Content Marketer Claire Murdough

I met Claire while living in San Francisco, when she took a job as an intern at the FinTech startup I was working at. To this day, I’ve never read a writing sample better than the one she sent with her application, and to this day, I’ve never met a more creative soul.

We became friends pretty quickly back then, bonding over being the only females in the office — save for our designer who spent half of her time living elsewhere — and bonding over all things creative. I still remember playing one-up my headline over g-chat every morning and nerding out over brands that were creating truly great marketing copy (and railing on the ones who tried and failed to relate to their audience). Working with Claire made every single part of my job more fun, and I knew work-life would never be the same when we stopped being coworkers.

I could wax poetic about Claire all day long — truly, all day long — but I’m going to force myself to stop now so you don’t run for the hills before reading her great interview. Enjoy!

1. What kind of writing (or editing) do you do for work?

I’m a Sr. Content Marketing Manager at a SaaS company in the Bay Area. I mostly manage content programs and strategy now-a-days, but I’ve created it all — blog posts, eBooks, emails, webinars, customer stories, landing pages, etc.

2. What kind of writing do you do for fun?

Right now I’m working on a series of “Children’s Stories for Adults.” The first story is called “Goodnight Brain.” The idea came to me during a commute home from work where I was feeling super down and out. At the time, I wished I could turn my brain off like a lamp.

Adults need comfort, too. And sometimes the simplest stories can do wonders. What better way to do that than in a lovely, children’s book format? I have about 30 other ideas lined up. Look out for more titles like “The Heart is Smart,” “Is This Normal?” “Pee with Purpose,” and “I’m So Tired.”

I also host a podcast called “Messy Notes” with Shannon. It’s something I’m incredibly proud of and feel super lucky to be doing something like this with my creative soulmate.

3. What’s your ideal writing routine?

I’m not sure that I have one anymore. I used to. But I’ve come to terms with the fact that the best writing routine is one where I actually write. My end goal now is getting words down, not trying to control my timing or environment. That might mean writing while on the bus (like I’m doing right now!) or writing for ten minutes in between meetings at work.

Of course, there are circumstances when it feels easier for me to write. I think I’ve written some of my best stuff very early in the morning or very late at night. I’d say most of the mid-day hours I’m pretty sh*t at creative writing. I forge ahead anyway. I can always edit later.

4. How often do you get to partake in your ideal writing routine?

Not very often. Or should that be “very often” because it doesn’t have boundaries? Will have to get back to you on that.

5. Do you believe in writer’s block?

No, in the real-world sense. Yes, in the fantasy-world sense. Writers are clever creatures. I think we occasionally invent intricate stories in our head to prevent us from actually creating. We call it “writer’s block” and then we let that creative little trick get the best of us.

6. As a paid writer, when was the first time you lost trust in your own work?

The first time I sat in front of a screen to write and cared more about the punctuation than the plot. I was letting minor details drive my creation. It freaked me out.

It’s a small example of letting the idea of “perfection” sit in the driver’s seat. That’s something I still struggle with and I’m not totally sure it will ever go away. I’m getting better at managing it, however, which makes all the difference.

7. Do you ever daydream about doing another job when you’re having a bad writing day?

Yes. Mail carrier. I love walking. I’d like to think I could probably invent a lot of stories during the working day.

8. What are your personal and professional goals?

I’m currently working to make sure my personal and professional goals overlap more. I often feel like a totally different person at work. It’s a confusing thing to live with and it contributes to feeling like a complete fraud some days. I want to zip the various versions of myself together in a more meaningful way. I have some ideas. Stay tuned.

And I also want to daydream more.

9. What’s one piece of writing advice you got that still reigns true? What writing advice would you give?

On Writing” by Stephen King is one of my favorite books. I’ve read it half-a-dozen times and it still dazzles me.

I’ve always loved this line:

“Sometimes you have to go on when you don’t feel like it, and sometimes you’re doing good work when it feels like all you’re managing is to shovel shit from a sitting position.”

It’s true; creativity is painful and messy and it doesn’t have finite answers. It’s also totally worth it. I try to never let that thought stray far from my mind.

Want to get to know Claire better? Follow her on Medium here and Twitter here, and check out my personal favorite story of hers here.