Sunday, February 17, 2013

Thank You Stephen King

Years ago I read his book On Writing. If you're a writer, and you haven't read it, do. It changed my life. But on to my story.

At 1:30 a.m. I woke, then tossed and turned for another hour. Finally, with sleep far away and Hemingway's saw in my head, I rose.

"Write one true sentence."

Water on to boil, I chopped fresh ginger for a warming brew, then settled in to my chair to do just that. What I wrote wasn't important. Not to you, anyway. But it was true.

Then I wrote another one. And another.

Before I knew it, I'd written lots of true sentences and received clarity on an issue that has appeared in my life, one I've been avoiding, known I was avoiding and watched myself avoid until the avoidance became downright rudeness. Bad business, avoidance. One of my coping (or not coping) mechanisms.

Done with that, I opened my manuscript, noting it had been last accessed on February 10th. Uh huh. A week ago. But it gets worse. I haven't done anything substantial to Peace Makers for over a month. Since finishing the first draft.

At first I justified spending my precious evenings watching Netflix. "I deserve a break after working day and night, don't I? But the last chapter needs work and the top-level bad guy needs further development. Oh come on, let's watch another episode of Eureka, now there's some wild imagination at work. It's great for the creative juices."

So not a word written, nor paragraph edited. My writer-esteem suffers. Recently, my justifying mind pulled Stephen King out of the hat. "Oh yeah! Didn't he say he always puts his first draft away for a length of time before going back to it? Yes he did. See. If Steve does it..."

In need of solace, I found my copy of On Writing and opened it, quite amazingly, to the exact section I needed. And got so much more than I was looking for. Confirmation. Validation. Direction. Advise. Commiseration. And laughter: the man's a master wordsmith with a wicked sense of humor.

Doubts allayed, esteem and resolve renewed, I'm off to pen a short note to a new friend. It's time to get beyond avoidance.

Then I'm going back to bed.

~ Olivia J. Herrell


Unknown said...

Interesting and uplifting post. I'm glad you're making progress again. I've read lots of Hemingway but have not gotten to Stephen King's book. I'll move it up in my list.

You might also find John Gardner's The Art of Writing Fiction helpful.

The avoidance thing has a way of creeping into our lives, but now, after reading your post, I feel ready to get back to my own writing!

Roland D. Yeomans said...

THE ART OF WRITING FICTION is a grand book, but not as warm and personal as King's.

Life is a harsh mistress. We must first live before we can have the material to reflect -- which alone makes for great writing. Thought-provoking post. :-)

Misha Gerrick said...

On Writing is one of those books all authors should read.

And I know what you mean with Netflix. TV can take up so much time that we can't get back and have nothing to show for.

nutschell said...

Hi Olivia!
Dropping by from the Back From the Future Blogfest and I'm glad I did. What an inspiring post. Lovely to meet you!


dolorah said...

So cool to get just what you need, when you need it :)


Eric W. Trant said...

Woof. Been a while since I posted, and been a while since you wrote this, but here goes...

I let a piece sit or write as needed. I don't force it. If you force the process, it's a little bit... well, the whole process, for me, is a little bit sexual. And you can't force sexual, can you? Either you're in the mood, or you're not, and either way it SHOWS in your writing.

Nothing wrong with taking time off. Don't let your nagger nag you too much.

- Eric

A.T. Post said...

Sometimes it scares me how similar we are, Olivia. I got exactly the same things out of "On Writing." Confirmation. Validation. Direction. Advise. Commiseration. Wasn't it gorgeous? Without it I would never have persevered and kept writing my very first novel. I'd have thrown it aside, ripped it up like the other 20 abortive attempts. I owe the completion to him. And he does have a wicked sense of humor, don't he? He wrote a very useful book, which is something few can do.

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