Sunday, July 3, 2011

"Writing is painful...

...Forgetting is painful. But not knowing which to do is the worse kind of suffering.
~Paul Coelho

I've just finished reading the book "Hell House" by Richard Matheson. For those who haven't read it, it is an intriguing 1970's story about a group of researchers who are commissioned to go to a house that has a reputation for killing people, in order to determine if there is really 'life after death'. The lead character, Dr Lionel Barret, is a non-believer in ghosts and holds a conviction that all phenomena are a result of purely physical means. He is accompanied by his wife (Edith), a spiritual medium (Reverend Florence Tanner, and a physical medium (Benjamin Franklin Fischer) who is also a survivor of a previous visit to Hell House. The antagonist (aside from the house itself) is an entity named Emeric Belasco, who had a reputation for converting innocent people into their own worst nightmares.

The novel is fairly well done, with a few exceptions that I would change. Matheson tends to overuse the word "hiss, or hissing" to describe an individual's reaction to cold or pain. It would have been better to find alternate descriptors, because its use became distracting. Another thing Matheson did in the book, particularly at the beginning was to frequently change POV in the middle of pages, or paragraphs.  Its something that we are taught as writers not to do, but as I read the story,  I didn't find that it took me away from the story. It was actually OK, and I think that sometimes we, as writers, harp too much on the 'head hopping' issue. I think that sometimes we need to read, and realize when its OK.

I started reading the text, Writing Fiction by Janet Burroway. The first chapter was both enlightening and validating. There was so much in it that I've previously thought, but hadn't seen from anyone else on the written word. Phrases like "write what you know" were contradicted in Burroway's text, which aligned with my own thought process. It's not always what you know, but what you imagine, and what you are willing to research, what you 'feel' and what you experience or have heard others experience. The phrase "write what you know" can be misleading to a new writer, and can cause she or he to fall into a trap of sticking to the very limitations that should be avoided when writing fiction.

Burroway talks about the need to make writing a habit. The importance of sitting down, and just writing. She states, "Any discipline or indulgence that actually helps nudge you into position facing the page is acceptable and productive" (p. 3). She also describes the importance of journal keeping, which is a way of 'giving yourself permission to fail' and gives the writer a 'source of originality, ideas, experimentation and growth'.

I, personally, enjoy the blog for this. It is more public than private, but it is a medium that I find useful. People can choose to read it or not. Most likely folks won't read it these days, because modern life is so busy and each person is committed to having others pay attention to their lives. Facebook, Twitter, and other social means say "look at me and what I'm doing" and few people take time to see what other people are doing. Maybe that gives me a false sense of security, but my life isn't extraordinary, and unless I have a best seller on the list, it will be considered commonplace and uninteresting at best. At worst, it would be boring and disposable.

So, here's to sitting down and writing a little every day. Whether on my novel, or on a blog, or on a paper napkin (which is disposable). Here's to being commonplace and uninteresting, and finding in those words or existence the things that are mentionable and memorable.

After sitting and writing a few lines today, I've made a pact with myself to go surfing. Despite the fact that I've pulled a muscle in my back, and probably shouldn't. I rested the muscle enough yesterday, and the day before, and am ready for some sun and some frigid Pacific ocean. The waves won't be high, but the day is clear and it's a long weekend. The opportunity is here today, and I will take it. Today I will write, I will read, and I will surf. Then maybe, just maybe, I will write some more...and if I pull a brain muscle I'll just push through. Eventually it will heal.


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