“If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time or the tools to write.” ~Stephen King
Stephen King, whether you appreciate horror or not, is a masterful writer. Over the years I’ve devoured nearly all of his books, while eschewing most other novels that would be considered horror. The first time I read The Shining, I was living in in a little house near the beach in Santa Cruz, and sat on the sofa all night waiting for my boyfriend to ride his bike home because I was too frightened to walk to the bathroom. Very few pieces of writing have made as strong an impression on me as The Shining. Seriously, how can walking bushes and the smell of oranges become utterly, paralyzingly terrifying? I dunno, but he does it.
“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” is a proverb that’s been around since the 16th century, but lately I’ve been bouncing these words around- voiced in my imagination in the inimitable Jack Nicholson cadence- they say “All out-flow and no input makes Jill a dull girl.”
I am spent from projecting. I am drained and empty from putting on a brave face, producing, being “on” and providing for others. This is part of my role and responsibility in life, and also part of what I have chosen- I make no mistake of casting myself as any sort of victim. Yes, crappy things have happened- find me someone who gets out of this mess without any scratches- but I have chosen to what and how I respond. Sometimes well, sometimes not really. And lately, I’ve been more about stimulus/response instead of any real, meaningful introspection. Perhaps part of it has been just survival mode- making it though the first quarter back to school, optioning my grad school program, having three kids by myself for the summer while being a full-time student- really, I just had to prove to myself that I could do it and survive. I did. We did.
But now, I am feeling it. I am feeling the tanks sucking air. I can see how people start to lose sight of perspective, and how vacuums form. If you just keep making noise, then you don’t have to acknowledge you are alone. That maybe you are scared or sad, and if you just keep putting stuff out there, it’s easy to pretend you are having meaningful exchanges. Whether its on a blog or in 120 characters or to all your 350 “friends”. At it’s best, it’s connection. At its worst, it’s an echo chamber. I’ve been waiting to have something to write about- and sitting on my hands.
In his supernal book On Writing, King said:
In truth, I’ve found that any day’s routine interruptions and distractions don’t much hurt a work in progress and may actually help it in some ways. It is, after all, the dab of grit that seeps into an oyster’s shell that makes the pearl, not pearl-making seminars with other oysters.
I need to stop copping-out and calling a friend update or a 120 character snippet writing. I need to fill my tanks with life- my messy, disordered, chaotic life and write about it. I need to read the fine writing of others, to stop, think, ponder and follow the white rabbit when he runs past me and down the rabbit hole. I need to stop being afraid of pain or of expressing myself and just write. And to be a good writer, you must live a good life, eat good food, read good books, and get out of the echo chamber.
So that’s where I am tonight- And have been for the last many days. I’ve been paralyzed with what to do. Maybe I still don’t know- but at least I’m writing. And I am going to start tackling the pile of neglected books on my nightstand. Starting now.