Returning back to my 4th grade self...(sharing my blog post)
I don't read Stephen King, but still...
As a fourth grader, I was living in D.C. while my superhero parents were working on my dad's medical degree. I say "they" rather than "he" because it was truly a team effort. I'm sure if you're a single guy, you can easily put down roots in a library, never moving again until that day you're handed a diploma. As a medical student with a wife, and not one child, but also a set of twins, all elementary school aged, it's impossible to complete this herculean task without a willing partner.
And, I'll also note that when I say "willing" that doesn't mean a woman who was never resentful of endless lonely hours, being the sole breadwinner while engaging in the thankless task of being a mother either. I think that that kind of woman is a shadow of a real one, made of such flimsy film as any fictional character playing in the theaters. Real women get tired of feeling unappreciated, and at time regret ever walking into the exhausting deal that one day makes you a doctor's wife.
Still, my parents made it through those grueling years before we were really old enough to be embarrassed by hand me downs and few changes of clothes. A family of five in D.C. has a heavy cost of living to meet, but since we were so small, we didn't know much about movie theaters or the newest toys out there. It was a time before expensive gadgets, and anyhow, we'd brought a five-inched-screened-computer with us from Utah before most families had one at all. Entertainment was anything that was free, and so we spent a lot of time on the wooded hill behind our rental house, growing our memories from the fertile soil of pretend.
If there had been Kindle at that time, we would never have been able to afford it. Thank the heavens for libraries, though, because I devoured books. Painfully shy, I relied on them to function socially in the fiction worlds in ways I simply could not in this real one. I think we can all admit that we are all a little nuts, and most of us keep that carefully hidden in the deep folds our own minds. A writer's mind, however, finds itself splattered without reservation upon a page, and, for better or worse, that was the playground where I grew up. With my parents so preoccupied with the business of preparing for a career, there wasn't much supervision for the books I read. As long as I got decent grades and didn't make trouble, anything I read flew strictly under the radar.
Being a voracious reader, I was likely reading at a very advanced level in the fourth grade, since I found myself reading Pet Cemetery. I remembered being fascinated by the concept of zombie dogs, but having never lost a pet, I did not have a real grasp of death. Instead, I imagined roadkill running around on broken limbs and matted coats. I was horrified, yet deliciously intrigued by the idea.
I grew out of Stephen King, ironic, since I now read and write the young adult genre. I still remember wondering what a freak that author must be, and knowing him must be akin to knowing an axe murder on his very best, least homicidal day. It could be no less than the most amazing thing to prod into his mind; provided you never turned your back on him, lest took a hammer to your head or worse.
Yesterday I started reading On writing: A Memoir of the Craft, written by that far less than homicidal author, Stephen King. The intention of the book is not to do an autobiography but to teach about the craft of being a fiction writer. A great in the fiction world wants to teach something? Yes, please!
It has been an utterly fascinating, brutally honest read, and one I highly recommend for aspiring writers. I don't recommend it based on my amazing success and therefore drawing on my large deposits of credibility, but rather because it makes being successful feel like an attainable goal. He made many mistakes, including tossing out the first four pages of his first great book, Carrie, only to be fished out that circular file by his wiser half to change their lives forever.
I stopped thinking about Mr. King's books sometime in the sixth grade, so the image of the hammer wielding psychopath curled over a typewriter was still there, still etched in my little girl imagination\. The grown up in my would never think such an absurd thing, yet I found myself a little surprised at how normal an upbringing and life he's led, and, dare I say it, enough like mine to give me pause.
So far what I've gotten out of this book is as follows:
1. Chucking out a perfectly good book, only to go back to it later is normal. My current book has already experienced this fate - actually completely trashing it's entire rendition two years ago. Maybe rewriting it wasn't a bad idea after all.
2. Your support system is crucial. My husband has never doubted me. In my moments of self-doubt, he becomes very seriously put out, making forceful rules about what expressions of negativity I am not allowed to say now or ever again concerning myself or my work. He insists it's in the contract, but I don't recall that particular thing anywhere on the marriage license.
3. It's totally normal to have no idea where your ideas come from, and just as normal to have to wait for them to show up in whatever volume they see fit. This explains why while really busy editing - which I hate - a completely new and unrelated book to my current series has been harassing me for the last two months. I finally have given in, becoming the shorthand secretary to the Muse until I have the time to actually flesh out my notes into something real - occasionally sneaking in a page or two while I really should be paying more attention in my Finance class. Oh, grad school...how tired I already am of you...
My favorite quote from the book?
"Writing is a lonely job. Having someone who believes in you makes a lot of difference. They don't have to make speeches. Just believing is usually enough."
I have the support and the ideas. According to Mr. King, I'll be just fine.