Writing Like Stephen King*

One of my favorite books is Stephen King’s On Writing: a Memoir of the Craft. King talks about how most of his books were written when he was drunk or high – or both – and listening to heavy metal music at ear splitting decibels.

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My writing partner, Laura Ambler, and I wondered if we could write better if we followed King’s writing process and tried writing under the influence. There are always places in our scripts where we put an MB (make better) or MF (make funnier.) This was an hypothesis that needed to be tested. We already had a control of sorts as we’ve completed quite a few scripts without any drugs or alcohol.

We ruled out the heavy metal music. Intrinsic to our writing process is that we talk to each other; loud music would make that a problem. We also ruled out drugs. Too risky and we didn’t know where to get them anyway. Although as I’ve talked to several people about writing this blog post, a surprising number of them told me they have had a ‘connection.’ Who knew!

That left us with alcohol. I just have to open my wine fridge, and, if Laura prefers a martini, the ingredients are already on the bar.

Now we have the means, but logistical problems present themselves. Laura usually comes to my house for our writing sessions. She can’t drive home under the influence. That would be totally irresponsible. I was recounting our dilemma to my husband and he said if we really wanted to pursue this experiment, he would pick up Laura and drive her home. (He is remarkably supportive of my writing, whatever the process, and I know he is much too nice to make a YouTube video of us being silly and post it online.)

As for me, two glasses of wine and I fall asleep which might not be conducive to inspired writing. This plan was beginning to remind me of my woman’s conciousness raising group from the 70’s. This was back when the head of NIH (National Institutes of Health) was saying cocaine was okay. Somebody in my woman’s group came up with the bright idea that our group should try cocaine. We debated that issue for a year. I suppose it took that long because any topic we decided to talk about always circled back to our mothers. Anyway, we finally decided we had talked about it so much that actually doing it held no allure, so we didn’t.

Laura and I haven’t talked the writing a la Stephen King thing to death yet, but we might be getting close. I’ll keep you posted.

*This was first posted on July 24, 2014. We never did get around to testing the King hypothesis.

Plein Air Quick Write*

Would you be able to write if you were outside (maybe under an umbrella to protect you from the scorching sun or a deluge) and had to complete a writing assignment in two hours? And your writing project would be judged and then put up for sale. This is what artists at Easton’s annual Plein Air Festival Quick Draw do. And to make it more difficult it’s a juried show and artists have to submit work in order to even get into the competition. This year the contestants were challenged by downpours.

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So it made me wonder…what would a Plein Air Quick Write Festival look like?

The very thought of trying to write something with other people watching makes me want to throw up. I’m an introvert and I covet alone time. Being closeted with my computer qualifies, and I could never share office space with my husband even though he’s a really nice guy. I know how to do social stuff, but it drains me and I have to have alone time to recharge my batteries. When Laura Ambler and I collaborate on a writing project these lines are blurred, but I have to say there is a huge amount of trust that she is not going to be judgemental when I blurt out something that just wouldn’t work. I grant her the occasional eye roll, but that’s it.

Two hours doesn’t give much time for editing or what I like to call marinating. Sometimes something I’ve written stays in a drawer for a long time before I take it out and look at it again. I read it and think, not too bad, or I read it and wonder why I wasted the paper it was printed on. Usually marinating doesn’t take that long, but, for me, it’s a really important part of the process. It gives my brain time to work without me trying to force it onto a particular path.

Writing using prompts might seem similar to a quick write. There are people sitting near you (which I find really distracting), but you only have to share if you want to. However, your words are not all out in the open for the world to see like a painting would be. I don’t like to think that I am a competitive person, but at the few writing prompt workshops I’ve attended the notion that I want mine to be WONDERFUL always manages to intrude when it’s time to share. When I hear what others have written I judge my effort as unworthy and keep my mouth closed. I am probably the classic neurotic, introverted writer.

A Quick Write Festival doesn’t seem to be in my future, but I’m curious. Would a Quick Write Festival appeal to you?

* This was first posted after Plein Air 2012. There was intermittent rain that year and the Quick Draw exhibit was in the street as it usually is. This year (2018) there was such heavy rain that the Quick Draw viewing was moved into the Tidewater Hotel. Laura and I had lunch with friends on Masons’ porch, as we have done for many years. Over a lunch with Bloody Marys and Bellinis, we judged umbrellas as they passed us by.

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This one deserved a prize. We have reserved the porch for 2019 and hope for better weather.

 

Write on Wednesday: Is Writing My Passion?

There is alot of foot traffic in my neighborhood early in the morning. Runners, parents with strollers and lots of walkers, many with their dogs. I was out in the driveway on Saturday morning loading wheelbarrows of mulch to dress my garden beds and several people stopped to tell me how much they enjoy watching my gardens change through the seasons. Three people actually told me that gardening must be my passion.

That made me stop and think. I’m a writer. Shouldn’t that be my passion?

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I googled passion in one’s life and here’s what I got. “Knowing your passion in life gives you something to build the rest of your life around. Your passion can be anything that simultaneously challenges you, intrigues you and motivates you. Contrary to the idea that doing what you love makes work effortless, a passion puts you to work.”

Do I only get one passion? And how is passion related to self-identity?

Identity is multi-faceted and mine has evolved over the years. I do know one thing about myself. I’ve always loved learning. Part of my identity is being a student.When I was a young mother, my focus was on my children. A large part of my identity was Mother. When my children were in high school, I went back to graduate school and started working for a paycheck. Four kids in college at the same time was a daunting prospect for my husband and me. We had to plan for that. My work identity became Social Worker. When I retired I had an identity crisis for about two weeks so apparently being a Social Worker wasn’t drilled into my soul.

Is my passion writing or gardening? Certainly gardening is more visible. People driving by our house can see what I’ve accomplished. My body of writing work is not very visible, has not made me wealthy and the hard work of writing doesn’t result in people stopping me in my driveway to deliver compliments.

Writing is important to me. It’s an outlet for creativity and in my life I’ve realized that I get a little crazy when I don’t have some creative outlet. But creativity doesn’t have to be writing. It can be cooking or gardening, or an art project. Writing is not the most important thing in my life, and I suspect that’s heresy in some writing circles. It’s the creative part of writing that makes me boot up my computer. 

Since I am a Gemini I’m going to choose two passions. Creativity and learning. For me they go hand in hand and can be applied to both gardening and writing and any other thing my squirrel brain sees that looks interesting.

 

 

 

 

Write on Wednesday – April 18, 2018

It was a trip to Key West that made me begin to wonder about what is considered writing. I was taking my daily early morning walk from one end of Duval to the other, skirting the guys out power washing the sidewalks from the drunken excesses of the night before.

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At least that’s what I thought they must be doing. My husband and I don’t do Duval after 8pm so maybe Key West shop owners just like really clean sidewalks in front of their stores.

It was the t-shirt shops that caught my attention. There are words on most of those t-shirts and somebody has to write them.  I tried to imagine when I would wear a shirt that proclaimed “Don’t Be a Pussy, Eat One.”

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Okay, maybe that’s a gender specific t-shirt (or maybe not), but you get the picture. And that was tame compared to some. You’d have to be pretty drunk to buy these shirts and even drunker to wear them in public. My question is “are t-shirt slogans writing?”

That made me think of greeting cards. Okay. Maybe not literary, but it is writing, right? Romance novels? You betcha! My first novel was paranormal suspense. Definitely not literary, but I’ll stick up for Romance Writers. Writing doesn’t have to be literary. Blogs. Sure, blogs are writing. But, what about texts with abbreviated words? Twitter?

I rarely read literary ficiton any more – still getting over being an English major in college, although I am recently dipping into poetry. I read almost solely for pleasure and relaxation so thinking too hard when reading doesn’t work for me any more. That said, being reduced to reading  t-shirt slogans on my Kindle would be a special kind of Hell. However, reading autocorrect fails is hilarious.

I suppose it all comes down to words and intention. One word, written with intention is writing. Even if it’s on a t-shirt.

Note: This post was originally published on April 30, 2012.