“It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great.” Tom Hanks as Jimmy in A League of Their Own, staring Tom Hanks and Geena Davis. Dottie (Geena) wants to quit the baseball league, claiming it’s too hard.

That’s the way I feel about writing. It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t, everyone would have a book published. That’s what makes it special. Sometimes, though, you need a break from “hard.” Sometimes you need to stop, breathe, and have fun!

Revising is fun as you see your words gain strength and power with a few minor tweaks. But it’s also hard when you find an entire scene that, despite your eloquent word-smithing, just needs to be tossed. All that effort in choosing the right word when the whole scene is pointless! The hardest part is when readers, and if I’m lucky, editors, weigh in with everything that doesn’t work.

Then, of course, there is the sheer length of time required to stick with a novel. It’s intense and it’s easy to lose perspective. Sometimes, you just need a change of scenery. A change of pace. Something to take your mind off of your long, seemingly never-ending manuscript.

That’s where I’m at today. I decided to look to my fairly impressive collection of books about words and phrases, including silly expressions that have been around forever. Why not purposely incorporate one or more of these sayings into a scene? You never know when you might need a character who constantly quips absurd sayings.

A Hog on Ice & Other Curious Expressions by the encyclopedia guy Charles Earle Funk (Surely somewhere in your family history there was a complete set of Funk and Wagnells.) was my book of choice for today.

To Do:

Spic and Span as a saying has been around since the 17th century. Since that time (according to Funk) it has meant tidy, neat, orderly. Like new. Maybe because of the cleaning commercials I grew up with, I always assumed it meant clean. But originally, the saying was “span-new” and it meant (in the 1300’s) a spoon that was newly “span” and not yet used. Spic, apparently has no meaning other than to create an alliteration.

  1. Create a character whose entire environment must be spic and span. Everywhere. At home. At work. At the gym. At the restaurant. Add to that an obsession with all things new.
  2. Now put him with a partner/employee/spouse who, according to him, would not tidy a thing ‘Til the cows come home, (as in, when Hell freezes over.)

There is a lot of room for conflict and for humour. Don’t think too hard about it. Just write and see what happens. Who knows. You may just create a character that is begging to tell his story!

If you’d like to add another challenge to the seen, how about writing the scene from the second character’s point of view. She totally thinks he’s splitting hairs over these over-the-top accusations.


*In a state of panic.


Published by Lois Donovan

Author of historical time travels, THE JOURNAL and WINDS OF L'ACADIE, Lois is in demand as a speaker/presenter at literary conferences and young writers' conferences and teachers conventions. Lois grew up primarily in Riverview, New Brunswick, but has called Calgary home for many years. Currently, Lois enjoys life in Calgary with her husband, daughter, son and daughter-in-law.

1 Comment

  • Wendy ferguson

    September 18, 2017 at 3:48 pm Reply

    Hi Lois,
    Spic and span is hardly ever in my vocabulary nor in my house, but I have done some splitting hairs to others despair. Hope your little holiday removed the funk.

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