April 17, 2011


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Writing about Writing. Oh, and someday I’ll start writing.

On Writing by Stephen King

I got it in my head sometime last year that I wanted to start writing fiction. Becoming a storyteller—It’s my new obsession. I have noticed a pattern in most all of my life’s obsessions. It starts with a vague idea that I could do something—a skill, a sport, a job, anything. Often, it is something I’ve never tried before and there is no logical reasoning for my new compulsion. It comes from nowhere. I just start getting the urge. TO DO IT. By my 20’s, I started to listen to this little voice. Now that I’m in my 30’s, I’m learning to act on it.

But, like all of my obsessions, I usually don’t just start doing it. I almost always read a ton about it. I almost always talk to others about it. And I never, ever show it to the outside world until I’ve practiced it. When I think highly of myself, I justify this approach as diligent research. When not, I call it what it often is: procrastination. This blog, is an honest effort to bypass this technique. A blog is easy. It is immediate. I don’t overthink it. I don’t over edit it(as my grammar demonstrates).

So, in my tradition of research/procrastination, I’ve been reading books on writing. Recently, I finished Stephen King’s book On Writing, which covers just that—and more. The first half covers his experiences as a young writer which is fascinating to me. The second half contains more techninical points of which I need the most help. Both paint a picture of a writer who has strong opinions about what does and does not work in the field of fiction. Below are a few of Stephen’s truths that stuck with me:

You can approach the act of writing with nervousness, excitement, hopefulness, or even despair—the sense that you can never completely put on the page what’s in your mind and heart. You can come to the act with your fists clenched and your eyes narrowed, ready to kick ass and take down names. You can come to it because you want a girl to marry you or because you want to change the world. Come to it any way but lightly. Let me say this again: you must not come lightly to the blank page.

I love this statement. No matter the motivation, take it seriously.

You must be prepared to do some serious turning inward toward the life of the imagination, and that means, I’m afraid, that Geraldo, Keith Obermann, and Jay Leno must go. Reading takes time, and the glass teat takes too much of it.

OK, a bit dated (the book was published in 2000), but the message is now more relevant than ever. Today, we have more distractions than ever.

Don’t wait for the muse. As I’ve said, he’s a hardheaded guy who’s not susceptible to a lot of creative fluttering.

Waiting for the Muse. Guilty. As. Charged.

If you substitute “Oh sugar!” for “Oh shit!” because you’re thinking about the Legion of Decency, you are breaking the unspoken contract that exists between writer and reader—your promise to express the truth of how people act and talk through the medium of a made-up story.

I wish Hollywood would take this approach more often. We would get more authentic characters and more authentic stories. I’m not always the biggest fan of King’s stories. But I LOVE his characters.

It’s also important to remember that no one is “the bad guy” or “the best friend” or “the whore with the heart of gold” in real life; in real life we each of us regard ourselves as the main character, the protagonist, the big cheese; the camera is on us, baby.

Hmm. Maybe I can send a copy of this to James Cameron. . .

So, those are just a few excerpts that are rolling around in my head at the moment. Now I have to go write. A story. About a writer. With writer’s block.

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