Friday, April 11, 2008

On Writing

I’ve recently finished reading On Writing by Stephen King, a book he wrote about, well, writing. First I’m going to lecture you a bit on popular horror fiction, and then I’m going to tell you what I’m thinking of doing next, writing-wise.

First of all, if one more person asks me, “Why do you read that crap?” when they see a Stephen King novel in my hand, I am going to throw it at their damn head. And it will probably hurt, as his books can get a little lengthy. Maybe I’ll wait until I have a hardback copy of The Stand or It in my hands to try for maximum damage.

Although I hesitate to answer that question, lest I give it credence, I will give it a go. Understand, I’m not validating the question – it is a stupid question. But I will answer it. Why do I read ‘that crap’? This is why:

  1. I understand that crap. Vampires in a New England town? An alien spaceship in the backyard? Sociopath clowns that morph into other monsters? Believe it or not, that makes a hell of a lot more sense to me than your standard romance novel. Besides, I think the sociopath shape shifting clown is actually a lot more realistic than the dark, handsome strangers and tantric sex stories being peddled to us by our romance novelists. A dark handsome stranger wants to rescue me and whisk me away and then make love to me for hours while focusing only on me and not on himself? Riiiiight. The clown is a lot closer to reality, people.
  2. I like creepy stuff. Sorry - *shrugs shoulders* - that’s just the way I am. Things that live right out in the light are never as interesting as the things I find in the dark.
  3. It isn’t crap. Why do people assume that because there’s a monster/ghost/mystery in it, it’s pulp fiction crap? Have you ever read Dracula, people? Or Frankenstein? Or The Phantom of the Opera? These are beautiful, beautiful stories. King said it best himself, “… sometimes even a monster is no monster. Sometimes it’s beautiful and we fall in love with all that story.” He was right. And it doesn’t have to be ancient to have value. Pick up something by King sometime and then try to read between the lines. If you actually stop to look, you’ll probably find a great deal of value. I find that the monsters are never the really scary parts of the books, anyway. Carrie White’s telekinesis has never scared me as much as Carrie White’s mother. Leland Guant, our satanic peddler from Needful Things, never scared me as much as the way that book makes me re-examine my consumerism and understand how easy it is for the things that I own to own me. You can look at the cover and decide it’s crap or you can read it and just look for the monsters and decide it’s crap… or you can read it for the whole story and find something beautiful hiding inside. It’s up to you. But it isn’t crap. I don’t read crap.

So there’s my little popular horror fiction lecture. If you forget and ask me why I read that crap, I can guarantee you something will be flying at your head, and it will probably be nice and heavy – at least 400 pages.

Anyways, I finally finished On Writing. It’s pretty good, and quite helpful if one wants to, I don’t know, write for a living. It focuses on writing fiction, which I have never done. I’ve always figured that I’m not any good at fiction. I can write the stories I know. I can put down the things I’ve experienced. But making something up? I suck at it.


I guess I’ve never really tried, have I?

So here’s what we’re going to do: I’ve decided to give fiction a try. What’s the worst thing that could happen? Well, I could find out that I actually do suck at it. No major loss there, as that’s what I’ve thought for the previous 26 years of my life.

If the worst thing that could happen is that I could confirm that I suck at it, I think it’s a safe enough venture. So I’ve put myself to the task: I’ve been working on a short story, committing myself to writing at least 1,000 words a day. I know this is a pathetically small amount, but bear with me. I’m just learning and I have a day job to tend to as well. I just finished my first short story this week and it will be up for review at our next Tuesday Night gathering. I’m anxious to see what everyone thinks, but I’m already getting started on an idea for a second story. I’ll be sure to keep you posted.

Aside from inspiring me to try my hand at fiction, this book also gave me a good deal of entertainment. King said that he once taught a course at the University of Maine in which he had a great deal of student athletes and cheerleaders as students. He was tempted to ask them to write an essay titled “If Jesus Were My Teammate”, but was held back only by the fact that he imagined that most of them would eagerly and quite seriously take to the task. This strikes me as completely hilarious and kind of makes me wish he’d done it, just so we could hear what came of it. Perhaps I’ll try my hand at such an essay. It would be difficult, as I was never an athlete or cheerleader (this is probably why the whole idea seems so damn funny to me, although I supposed I alter it to ‘If Jesus Played Opposite Me in the Spring Musical’ and it would still be equally ridiculous), but I wonder if I could pull it off. If any of you out there would like to give it a try, let me know. I’ll happily review your composition. I’ll give extra points for anyone who can successfully make Jesus his/her ‘sidekick’ on a team or incorporate every one of the disciples into a chorus line.

Good luck, and happy writing!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Update on 2008 Goals

As some of you may recall, I made some goals for 2008. I’m here to update you on my progress so far, about a quarter of the way through the year.

Here are the original goals and the progress I have made with each of them:

*Take a Belly Dancing class: Mia and I have signed up for two 7 week sessions so far. I will probably quit at the end of this session and try something else. My instructor is pregnant and due around the same time I would’ve been with my second baby and going to class has become just plain painful as time goes on and she gets rounder while I stay the same (except, of course, for the lovely laparoscopy scars on my belly).

*Walk Dingo 1-2 times a week when the weather is nice: Unfortunately, the weather hasn’t been too nice for most of this year. However, as it gets warmer Dingo and I are getting out more. We did get out for a walk twice last week. We’ll have to see how we do from here.

*Read Dante’s Divine Comedy: Haven’t even started.

*Publish my book: A severe lapse in faith has caused me to question the validity of my book. – Can I publish something if I don’t really believe it anymore? We’ll be re-visiting this later on in the year, I’m sure. I did purchase the 2008 Writers’ Guide and got as far as digging through it, but I gave up about the time I realized I had a moral dilemma to solve first.

*Make and use re-usable shopping bags: I’ve made 4 for myself and started using them. An additional 7 are in process – 2 are almost done! And, I’ve actually been using them. Yay me!

*Participate in the AIDS walk: I’m signed up and raising money. The walk will be May 3. If you haven’t given yet please, please, please click on the button on the right of the screen and humor me with at least a small contribution.

*Work on being a good mentor for the young ladies in my life: So, yea… that’s not the most tangible goal I ever set. Maybe I’ll have to define that a little better and figure out what I was talking about.

*Get a bike and bike instead of driving when possible: D fixed up my old mountain bike and even rigged it with a basket. I rode it to work yesterday and today and plan to do so while the weather is nice. We’re probably going to go look for new bikes soon as the mountain bike I got for Christmas when I was 13 isn’t exactly ideal for daily road riding.

*Work on adjusting my consumeristic lifestyle and be happy with less: Um, how does one measure this? I have set some goals for myself regarding my consumeristic tendencies and have been making a few lifestyle changes. I’m also trying to live a slower paced life, which I think ties into this somehow. I’m still fairly unhappy with some of the actual results – for example, if I spend less, I should be able to give away more, right? But instead I’ve been paying more on the car (should be paid off soon!), paying off my hospital bill ($1700 to not bring home a baby?!?!), and putting money aside in preparation for pursuing international adoption. So I haven’t given anything more away and I feel like I’ve kind of missed the point on that one. But my lifestyle is overall getting less consumeristic. I guess we have to take what we can get.

*Blog once a week: Yea, this hasn’t happened. But it’s been pretty close. I think I’m averaging about 4 posts a month, which isn’t too bad.

So that’s where we are at this point. If I actually meet all of these goals I may set more, but for now I think I’ve still got enough of a challenge to keep me motivated. Thanks for everyone who has helped me figure out how to meet my goals – Lisey is walking the AIDS Walk with me, Mia is taking Belly Dancing with me, D fixed my bike, and of course you, dear reader, have been reading my blogs.

Until next time…