Since half of 2013 is now over & behind us, and oh so many things have gone so fucking wrong for me this year (I guess I can toss all my failures into the ‘at least I fucking tried something’ pile), I had decided I needed to write more this year, send more stuff (or anything) out to try to get some of my fiction published, and blah blah…I’ve basically been doing just the writing I do for work, and everything else is half-finished files sitting in a folder on my fucking computer. This is probably because I’m afraid of actually putting stuff out there.
So, a couple years back I wrote a novel, which has been sitting on a thumb drive in my purse pretty much since. This year I had imagined re-editing it and putting it out on Smashwords to just be done with it. It’s essentially my first novel, and is not without its problems. I wanted to cut some of the characters out, and in a way the whole thing needs a lot or work. But, it’s important to me in the way that I can’t stop thinking about it yet nothing ever gets done about it. Story of my life.
I had a pretty profound conversation this morning with a friend of mine, this conversation was about suicide. It led into the notion that if someone is so fucking willing to give up their own life, then why the fuck don’t they go devote their lives to something other than what they had been doing. Yes, my egocentric brain saw the ‘me’ in that and decided I need to kill the Andrea I don’t like. For the last week I’ve been feeling I need a ‘spiritual’ journey (by spiritual journey I mean drugs) to re-discover what I want from my life and to re-evaluate what it is that tethers me to this life.
Instead, I’ve decided to use the next six months better than the last. I started writing small passages of rewrites for that book I wrote, but today I realized that what I’m really doing is writing another story. So, that’s what I’m going to be working on for the next six months. Writing a story, here, for you. Hopefully at least one person will read it. Every Friday (at the very least) i’ll post a new segment. Even if no one reads this shit at least I’ll feel responsible for the deadlines I’ve set. So, the beginning will be posted this Friday, July 5th.
We need art. We need experience. Everything in us needs to pull up from out the holes of our own existences and experience the collaborative goodness & beauty that is experience. And from experience comes art.
Just because you know the world is round doesn’t mean you should stop exploring it. Thoreau once said, ‘How vain is it to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live?’ This is something I’ve always considered when I’m off living my life and not finding the time to write. As artists we need experience & adventures. I think we have an obligation to not withdraw into the shells of our selves and refuse or talk our selves out of doing.
Watch the sun rise a few times, lie in the grass once in a while, learn about the stars and so much that is bigger than you, swim in the ocean, hike, walk, find things and friends and see them. Discuss everything. Drink. Love. Break bones if you have to. This is art. We have to excavate the truth, or some form of the truth. There is a lot to explore and uncover about yourself and the world.
Having read quite a few books on the craft of writing, I could probably give you a reasonable idea of what is good or bad, or what is just a waste of time. So, just recently it had come to my attention that I have never read Stephen King’s book on the craft On Writing. Basically I read this literary agent’s blog, and recently he asked his readers the question of what they thought was an important book for writers to have read. And surprisingly a lot of his readers mentioned this Stephen King book. To be honest it’s been a long time since I’ve picked up anything written by Stephen King. A very long time. But, to be more honest one of my favorite stories of all time was written by Stephen King, and was converted into one of my favorite movies of all time. I’m talking about The Body which once adapted into film became Stand by Me. I carried my copy of Different Seasons (which is the book that contained this story) around pretty much everywhere I went as a kid, reading it again and again, until the book finally began to fall apart from wear. And yes, Stand by Me is most certainly a part of my dvd collection. And yes, I still put it in once in a while to bring me back to all the nostalgia of why I never fell out of love with reading or writing.
Yes, I decided I wanted to be a writer in the fourth grade, and that’s when I started writing my odd little stories. My parents were divorced by then, and around the sixth grade it was pretty easy for me to find that the one consistent thing amongst both their book collections was Stephen King. I picked up every book of his I found around their houses and consumed them all. Then later drug my mom to video stores until I had watched every movie that had ever been adapted from his stories. I still watch all the adaptations. I love film. So, of course I do. But, like I mentioned I’ve read a hell of a lot of books on craft. And so far my favorite has been John Gardner’s The Art of Fiction. But, I had not yet read Mr. King’s writing book, so how could I judge what wisdom may lurk within its pages. Also, I’ve sort of had him on my mind recently having finally gotten to see the Kingdom Hospital series he’d done, and also having picked up a book by his son, Joe Hill. I think we all need to remember again and again what we find key to good writing. So I gave his book a go.
On Writing is weaved with a lot of personal story about his childhood, a scene when his mom passed away (which made me cry either because it reminded me of losing my dad or because I’m hormonal—maybe both), and other incidents that string together in ways that show us how some of his story ideas were formulated. It’s actually a very pleasant read. And it reminded me how much of a good storyteller he is. Maybe I need a new copy of Different Seasons? Hmm. There’s also all the practical advice you would hope for. Tips like: avoid the passive tense, the adverb is not your friend, show don’t tell, and ‘When you find something at which you are talented, you do it (whatever it is) until your fingers bleed[…]’. He’s right, you know. About all of that. And he also tells us that we can learn a lot from reading bad books. How sometimes they keep us going, reminding us that we can do better, and what not to do.
There are also a lot of emotions I recognize in this book. He talks about attending creative writing classes and struggling with what to bring, wanting to bring in something big and important like his classmates were, while having the stories he enjoyed writing tucked away. As if he was almost embarrassed by this indulgence. I get it. I’ve felt that way too. And I think it took me a good many years to realize that I should write what I enjoy writing, what I would want to read. And aside from all that I think his most important advice, the advice we all hear again and again, is to read a lot and write a lot. Reading and writing are the most important tools to the craft of writing.
Being a writer is quite a masochistic endeavor. You gather up a collection of knowledge and experience, sort it all out within yourself and then labor many many sleepless nights arranging it into stories. When those stories are done, you sort of hang them out on the clothesline to dry for a bit, really looking at them. Then you edit, edit, edit. All this while the aching feeling that no matter how much you tinker, they will no way, not ever be good enough. When you finally calm this feeling down to merely unease, then you can start sending these stories out to others so they can tell you that they are, in fact, as you had assumed and yet dreaded, not good enough.