Okay, I’ll admit it……I’m a writer, have been for many, many years. And sure, reading this blog a person might be hard pressed to be convinced of that as even re-reading it myself I sometimes think….was I on CRACK or something when I wrote that??? because it seems more like a ‘mind dump’ than actual ‘polished’ writing…and it is.
I’ve only had a couple of things published….stories in now defunct magazines or tiny online newspapers……But I have it on good authority I’ve earned the right to call myself a writer and that authority comes from the master himself….yup Stephen King….probably one of the most widely read, successful and prolific writers of cracking good yarns to come along in many, many years. See, King wrote this book called “On Writing”….pretty catchy title, eh? And so much like the man himself….direct, no crap and to the point and despite all his success a guy who clearly hasn’t lost that Maritimer down home Maine-ness. When I first saw “Carrie” on TV and then read a couple of books….or tired (not a fan of the genre really), I thought ‘what kind of mind would it take to write this kind of stuff all the time?” Then I read this article (probably in the seventies) in “Writers Digest” magazine talking about how he ate about a bottle of aspirin a day, etc. etc. It really played into the tortured artist type thing…sorry, don’t remember who wrote the article, but looking back and listening to Stephen King we find he was at the time a self declared alcoholic and possibly into his ‘drug phase’ when the piece was was written. But just listen to the guy today……humble, self-effacing and not even bitter about the fact that although he’s probably singlehandedly (yeah, I know, it’s not a real word, but it works) kept generations reading …..BEFORE ‘Harry Potter”….BEFORE “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets Nest”, BEFORE “Game of Thrones”…who was there slugging it out, keeping the lights on for those nose-in-the-air serious writers (many of whom still after years haven’t sold 1,000 books) and keeping publishing houses in business? Yep, King. Stephen King, my hero! And no, I’m not into the genre he writes particularly but all anyone has to do is just read one of his books to know he’s one damned fine writer!
And do you know what King said in his “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft of Writing”???? He said (to paraphrase because I’m too lazy to get up and find the exact quote in my well-thumbed copy) ….he said “If you write today, you are a writer. If you wrote yesterday you are a writer. Writers write. So every day you write, you earn the right (catchy eh?) to call yourself a writer.” So there….from Stephen King’s lips to my ear….I’m a writer! I’m a writer because I’m writing…..right now.
Anyway, we’ll discuss writing and writers and how much some guy who I’ve only REALLY read a few of his books became my mentor and hero and whittled down my “Writer’s Workshop” induced writer’s block of years ago to manageable size later because of his modest little book ” On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft of Writing” which should be required reading in every school in my humble opinion by the way because THIS blog is about, as it says in the subject line, The Stories We Tell, but more importantly, it’s about The Stories We Tell Ourselves, ABOUT Ourselves- and those, I’ve come to believe are the most important stories of all because they either make us or they break us and, by the way the bad ones if never revised, KEEP us broken. They aren’t the kind of stories that will win us The Giller, or the Rogers Writer’s Trust prize, or the Mann-Booker, or a Pulitzer…..but you know something? I’ll bet for every writer who has won one of those suckers (not Stephen King….oooooh nooooo, he’s not SERIOUS enough, he’s just the guy who kept the whole damned publishing industry afloat and millions reading while some of them bored the beJAYsus (as the “Angel’s Ashes’ guy would say) out of us) ….However, I’ll make a wild assumption here and say I’ll bet all of those ‘winners’ were informed and made richer by the stories THEY told themselves ABOUT themselves.
Someone once said ‘we all have one book in us’ and I believe we do…..some people write their book in the pictures they paint, or the lives of service they lead, or they write it in how they raise their kids…..but we are all, ALL of the time, writing our story…no matter what vehicle we use to do it. And sometimes the whole story is a construct of made up crap, sadly and needs one of those massive rewrites. Scary thought, isn’t it….
Okay, I’ll go first…..here are some of the stories I tell myself ABOUT myself….I was a really good student (a million years ago) and led my class..so I’ve told myself I’m more intelligent than the average bear; in my life I’ve loved three very different kinds of men and lost them all – so I’ve told myself the story that love for me, is ‘giving up’ something else I love….SACRIFICING something and that I’ll always love and never be loved; every job I’ve ever had I’ve been ‘the keener’ and the sharpest knife in the drawer, hence the story I tell myself that I work longer, smarter, harder than my co-workers. But….here’s the thing…..(1) it’s been years since I’ve been out of school and all these bright young things know FAR more than I do now (2) I’m starting to get the idea that great love DOESN’T HAVE TO equal great sacrifice (3) I’m out of the work force now and just a hack tip-tapping away on a keyboard, so there goes the ‘better than co-workers work ethic’ thing.
And the stories I USED to tell myself about myself were (1) I’m a date-rape victim (2) I’m a battered wife of an abusive alcoholic (read martyr) , and THEN (3) I’m a strident feminist…….and those are just a few I told myself for awhile and then discarded when it finally sunk in although I was all of those things once, I refused to allow them to define me any longer……but these stories I’ve just recently come face-to-face with now in the paragraph above….well, those are a few of the gems I’ve continued to tell myself ABOUT myself for years now and never questioned until something amazing happened…..I STOPPED BEING A WRITER…..because I stopped writing…..have been unable to write anything but this blog and a few emails to good friends. For anyone who used to write as much as I did, well, that’s like a runner who no longer can run, or a swimmer who can no longer swim or …..well, it’s like a fish out of water…that’s how it feels – scary, yes. because what if this NEVER comes back? but mostly frustrating because hey, it’s what I DO, it’s my PASSION, it’s my LOVE, how can I BE in the world and not write????
Besides a ton of short stories, I have three novels I’ve written (the first one I think I just outgrew, grew up and abandoned – maybe it’s worth resurrecting, maybe not), the second was a labour of love that wrote itself – it needs DESPERATELY to be edited but as King also says “it’s hard to kill off our babies” and I’ve been putting off doing that; the 3rd I’m about 20 pages from the end of the first draft and ….POW…..writer’s block or whatever you want to call it. It feels like running out of gas, it feels like a kind of death, it feels like if I don’t get over this and start writing soon I’m going to die. It feels like fear.
But I’ve resolved to dare greatly, haven’t I, so I’m going to get to the root of that fear and ferret out the causes for that fear…..was it that last man I loved (still do actually to be perfectly honest) and lost? It was after him that the my muse pulled up stakes and just sort of wandered off into what someone I once knew used to call ‘the far-gone-iss-fere’…was it this story if I sacrifice something I love, I’ll get something (or get something back) I love better? Is that how my mind works? Is it the story I’m telling myself about myself that is keeping me from both of those things I love…..the man and the writing? Is it that I’ve decided I’m not a good enough writer to go on (OR that I’m too lazy to go back and edit and put the work in good writing requires) and rather than admitting I’m giving up because I’m too lazy I need someone to blame?? Oh and there is another story I tell myself about myself…..that I’m not a QUITTER…..but wait….THAT story is true, because, you know what? I’m not damned-well quitting…..I’m not giving up on love, I’m not giving up on writing and I sure as hell am NOT giving up on living life in the open. And guess what? I’m not TOO lazy either!!!!
So, I’m going to dare greatly….I’m going to discard all of those old BAD, FALSE, POOR ME, I’M TOO OLD TO CHANGE, I’LL NEVER BE LOVED, I’M BRIGHTER THAN YOU, I’M REALLY TOO LAZY FOR DRAFT 6 or 7- LET ALONE 2nd DRAFT, IF I LOVE SOMETHING I’LL HAVE TO GIVE UP SOMETHING ELSE I LOVE old stories that I’ve been telling me about me. They are no longer valid. You know why? Because I SAY they are no longer valid.
So with all of my old stories gone what is there to hold on to? Were any of them true in the first place? A couple – I love my kids unconditionally, I love a very complicated man unconditionally, and I love, love, love writing unconditionally….that’s a pretty good start. I feel like it’s the frame……the plot-line that freakin’ Writer’s Workshop YEARS ago kept telling me I had to do before I could ever WRITE anything important……well……maybe for SOME writers….but not for this one….I see the characters and THEY tell ME their story and I just write it down. But as for the story about me, that I will tell to me until it’s no longer valid??? I’m going to really do a lot of work on that one because I want that story to be positive and loving and open and creative and life sustaining.
And although I’ll be the only one reading this story something tells me that of all of the things I have written and all of the things that I will ever write, THIS is the story I have to get just right, THIS is the most IMPORTANT story I will ever write because it will inform how I go forward into the world, how I will interact with the people I love and the ones I will love in future, how I will create and be, and work and live.
Here’s the blank page, here are a couple of ideas…….. I think I’m about to start the next chapter of my life. And this? THIS is exciting…….scary, but exciting.
So….what stories to YOU tell yourself ABOUT yourself? Are they true anymore? Time for the 9th or 10th draft maybe? Another Chapter? Yeah, sure, it’s scary but okay….I’ll go first………