On Writing


I am currently zipping through Stephen King’s book about writing called On Writing. There are two things that make this unusual. The first being that I am zipping through it. Reading anything longer than a news paper article is rare for me these days. If a story runs more than two pages in Oprah:The Magazine, I shudder and steel myself for mental exertion. The second reason my reading of King’s book is unusual is that I generally speaking don’t care how other writers go about the business of writing. Perhaps I should, but I don’t. I write. Sometimes I share it. I like positive feedback. I am annoyed by constructive criticism but once I get past the annoyed part I do take it to heart and use the constructive parts. The reason it annoys me though is because it is rarely information I didn’t already know. I know when my writing isn’t working and having it pointed out to me just makes me crankier than I probably already was. But, I am enjoying the King book. It isn’t really about the process as much as it is about his journey and we all have our own journeys to make as writers. I found what he had to say about the writing of Carrie to be particularly interesting. He said it wasn’t a story that he connected with and that it was hard to write, but he thought it taught him a lot. Among other things it taught him that a writer should quit just because a piece was difficult emotionally or imaginatively. “Sometimes you have to go on when you don’t feel like it, and sometimes you’re doing good work when all it feels like is that you’re managing to shovel shit from a sitting position.” – (p.78 of On Writing by Stephen King).

I kinda feel like that right now with my novel. It has changed direction and style and format to the point where I think I will need to start again. Not toss what I have, but start at the beginning and work my way through to what is passing as the end right now. That is 223 pages worth of reading and revising and thinking and being frustrated. Because I am.

Rob printed off a copy of it for me at his office at work because we don’t have the printer set up in our home office yet. I have been pestering him for a printer since September because I really don’t like having him print things for me at work. Not because I am one of those people who worries overly about things like using the employer’s office supplies for personal business, and I know this makes me a terrible person in some circles, The reason I don’t want Rob printing things is because he will read them, and they are not ready to be read until I say they are ready and even then they might need more work in my opinion. So Rob printed my mess of a novel and asked me where the story was going. Did I know what I wanted to say? Well no actually, thanks for asking. The thing is that I am coming around slowly to the idea that my story is not about Julie the widow but about Julie the woman who watched her husband die. It’s about me in more ways than I am comfortable with and about people I know like family, friends, the men I met online last year in my quest to date again. It’s about chaos. It’s about loneliness. It’s about pain. And it’s about how all these things go on out of sight while people appear to be managing and surviving.

Stephen King is got it about right.