Friday, November 02, 2007

It's the other way around

My girlfriend Kathleen is the children's librarian across the river. I hope to one day write in the coming-of-age genre and so I spend a lot of time in her lovely library space talking with her and breathing in the smell of old books and big thoughts.

While there before Halloween we got talking about scary stories and edge of your seat movies and Stephen King's name came up. I'm not a horror movie aficionado. Too impressionable I guess. Once those images get in my head they don't leave and so I've learned not to put them there in the first place. But I raved about his thrillers and his redemption stories. Stephen King writes the best redemption stories I know. Facing his demons of addiction in Misery and navigating the power of imprisonment in both The Green Mile and The Shawshank Redemption opened up my thoughts to how we can tell many stories all at once with a large enough tale. Even when the stories are translated to film they delve into themes so rich and full. This is a man who writes from the core of his being.

Kathleen jumped to tell me that while in Bangor last week, shopping for dog food her youngest son pokes her and says "Hey mom, I think that's Stephen King behind us." She did a sideways glance and confirmed yes, it was Stephen King. A quick run to the car to get older son who had read and seen his whole repertoire, who rushed and gushed to shake his hand and engage him in conversation.

I knew he was a Bangorite (or is it Bangorian?) and I have longed to hunt for him with my least "Annie" (Misery) like personality and pick his brain. I dream of begging him to hold a small writing workshop or just sit with him over coffee asking every question I can ponder.

My quest when we moved to the Pittsburgh area years ago was to find and meet Mr. Rogers. He unfortunately passed shortly after we arrived. Upon moving a river's width away from Maine my new quest became finding and meeting Stephen King.

Last night there was an incredible Sacred Writing workshop here in town that got my creative juices flowing again and I found that I was not the only frustrated poet in our community. The room was rich with such a varied and interesting group of souls and surprisingly enough it looks as if it might turn into a regular writers circle! My brain is whizzing with ideas and I'm beginning to ponder this long, cold winter with an (almost done) new office. Today while returning books to the library I realized I might be able to have a small fix to keep me going, until the writers group comes together, by checking out Stephen King's On Writing. Not that I don't have enough non-fiction to read at the moment, but it might save me from staking out the Pet Smart with my first edition of Dolores Claiborne in one hand and a Sharpie in the other.

The back cover makes me glad I did:
For years I dreamed of having the sort of massive oak slab that would dominate a room... In 1981 I got the one I wanted and placed it in the middle of a spacious, skylighted study in the rear of the house. For six years I sat behind that desk either drunk or wrecked out of my mind...

A year or two after I sobered up, I got rid of that monstrosity and put in a living-room suite where it had been... In the early nineties, before they moved on to their own lives, my kids sometimes came up in the evening to watch a basketball game or a movie and eat pizza... I got another desk - it's handmade, beautiful, and half the size of the T. rex desk. I put it at the far west end of the office, in a corner under the eave... I'm sitting under it now, a fifty-three-year-old man with bad eyes, a gimp leg, and no hangover. I'm doing what I know how to do and as well as I know how to do it. I came through all the stuff I told you about... and now I'm going to tell you as much as I can about the job...

It starts with this: put your desk in the corner, and every time you sit down there to write, remind yourself why it isn't in the middle of the room. Life isn't a support-system for art. It's the other way around.
So as I set my computer desk into the eave of my new office I will try to remember this well. Thank you Mr. King, I look forward to telling that to you in person one day. I'll be the red-head at the Pet Smart.

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