What Stops You?

FEAR. Now there’s a terrible four-letter word. Some will tell you that fear is necessary for survival. How else will you know if something is harmful or fatal to you? I propose the correct word here is caution. Not fear. You see, fear will stop you dead in your tracks. Fear will lie to you. Fear is an emotion. It will make you question your next move, and every move after that. It will create doubt in your plan of attack. It will convince you that you are going to experience nothing but rejection and ridicule. Fear will make you give up. Quit going in to avoid failure.

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This applies to many things in life. Some typical events that are interrupted by fear include proposing to a woman. Yes, asking her to marry you. What if she says no? Then what? I’ve already asked her dad for her hand in marriage. I’ve told my mom, who cried, then dabbed her tears and said with a gleam in her eyes, “When’s the wedding?” I’ve told my best friends. I told my brother and my pastor. Good gracious, I’ve told everyone. What am I going to do? See how our protagonist is ready to quit just so he doesn’t hear the word “no?”

Now what about writing? How many times have you bragged to teachers that you’re going to be a published author one day? How often have you told your mother or your father. I think it was well past five years since I first told my dad I was going to be a writer. I mentioned it once again, at a family picnic. Maybe one time too many. He said in response, “A wise man once said if you have nothing good to say, maybe you shouldn’t say anything at all.” You could hear a pin drop. No one knew what to say. My face turned beet red. I fought back a tear, and decided such comments don’t create fact. Action does.

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Why do writers write? What makes them see beyond all the negative prognostications and decrees? How are they able to see something on the other side of the blinking cursor on the laptop? When it’s all going so well, and I am cranking out word after word that somehow seem interrelated, I am convinced I’m well on my way. This is it. I’m writing. Where did all this talent come from? Dad was a woodworker and a painter on canvass, so I must have his creative genes.

Then I hit a wall. A dead end. And I do mean dead. Like my fingers won’t even move. No thoughts come to mind. The characters are trapped, never to go anywhere again. This can go on for days, weeks, months. I hate to say it, but it can even go on for years. I had a wonderful idea for a screenplay. It had everything. Teenagers, music, a snowstorm, a party gone horribly wrong. Great opening act. Act One was a joy to write. I even had a good idea how the story would end. But I am stuck at page 57. Dead in the water. I’ve tried altering the ending. I even changed the moral of the story, and looked at various character arcs. Nothing.

So what stops you from moving forward? Julia Cameron, in her great book The Artist’s Way, takes her reader through a series of exercises and workshops and lists in order to get at the bad guy inside you that’s telling you what you’re doing is no good. The internal editor. This evil force is ultimately based upon someone in your life that told you there was no way you’d ever make it. You’re too old. You’re not clever enough. You’re not creative. Your idea is not original enough. I highly recommend if you are seriously stuck as an artist — songwriter, sculptor, painter, writer, poet — that you get this book. Follow her instructions. She will help you get unstuck and find out what’s stopping you from moving forward in your work.

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Click here to visit Julia Cameron Live.

To the writers everywhere, just stay plugged in to the spirit that moves you. Julia Cameron talks about God being the Great Creator. She said God has instilled creativity in all of us. Our job is to get in touch with our Inner Artist. Why do we write? Because creativity is living deep down inside of us. What stops us? It’s a whole number of things, most of which are not even rooted in reality. No one knows where their writing will take them. I am grateful for the renewing of my spirit and my drive to create. It has put me back on my intended path, and that’s worth every word I struggle to put down on paper.

So write, my friend. Start with free association. Try writing the minute you wake up. Write anything that comes to mind. Your internal editor is still sleeping. He won’t see what you’re writing. Don’t worry about punctuation or spelling or word usage. That can all be fixed in your rewrite. Just write. You will be so amazed at what comes out of end of your fingertips at six in the morning.

10 Ways to Write a Poem

I found the following post on Poetry Breakfast, a WordPress blog I subscribe to. Please stop by: https://poetrybreakfast.com/

  1. Reassemble the torn bits of the poem
    he left on your desk in 1989
  2. Listen to the waves wash around
    sanded jellyfish and mermaids
  3. Retrace the steps he took
    to give you a birthday kiss
  4. Dance with her in post-stroke
    and wedding dresses
    and a virtual audience
  5. Feather the skinned knees of every
    smooth-cheeked kiss
  6. Drink down wine
    turned to water
    turned to winter
  7. Stretch the length of your spine
    along his hand and the lined page
  8. Taste the fat of coffee cream lyrics
    sung by a burning boy
  9. Lock eyes with clasped hands
    across happy hour smiles
    and congenital heart defects
  10. Commit it all to paper
    commit to no one
    commit soul to holy hands
    commit the rest to memory

By Annmarie Lockhart

About the Poet:  Annmarie Lockhart is the founding editor of vox poetica, an online literary salon dedicated to poetry, and Unbound Content, an independent poetry press. A lifelong Bergen County, New Jersey resident, she lives, writes, and works two miles from the hospital where she was born. You can read her words at fine journals online and in print.

 

Poets and Poetry in the Eyes of William Wordsworth

“Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.” – William Wordsworth

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“In spite of difference of soil and climate, of language and manners, of laws and customs, in spite of things silently gone out of mind and things violently destroyed, the Poet binds together by passion and knowledge the vast empire of human society, as it is spread over the whole earth, and over all time. The objects of the Poet’s thoughts are everywhere; though the eyes and senses of man are, it is true, his favorite guides, yet he will follow wheresoever he can find an atmosphere of sensation in which to move his wings. Poetry is the first and last of all knowledge – it is as immortal as the heart of man.” – William Wordsworth

William Wordsworth was a major English poet who helped launch the Romantic Age in English literature. He and Samuel Taylor Coleridge published Lyrical Ballads in 1798. Wordsworth’s debut as a writer was in 1787 when he published a sonnet in The European Magazine. He received a B.A. from Cambridge in 1791. Wordsworth’s magnum opus was The Prelude, which was published in 1850 by his wife three months after his death. It is considered by many to be the crowning achievement of English romanticism. The poem chronicles the spiritual life of the poet, and marks the birth of a new genre of poetry.

Wordsworth developed an interest and sympathy for the life, troubles, and speech of the “common man.” He had a keen interest in politics and poetry, and had a particular disdain for tyranny. Wordsworth saw a necessary relationship between writing and political justice. He disliked complicated, fanciful writing, and instead believed poetry should be written “in the real language of men.” He understood poetry to be “the spontaneous overflow of feelings,” saying, “it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility.” He selected incidents and situations of common life as his subject matter, but described such situations with language “really used by men.”

Prior to Wordsworth, the ordinary life of ordinary people was not typically the subject of poetry. He democratized poetry, giving it a universal appeal. Poetry to date had featured urban subjects regarding artificial lives of people living far away from the simplicity of nature. Wordsworth preferred humble, rustic life as his subject matter because it is here that essential passions of the heart find a better soil in which they can grow into maturity and come to realize their full potential. He believed such a humble and rustic life to be more simplistic, serene, and tranquil. He was contented with the manner in which rustic people expressed their feelings through quaint, non-elaborate and unsophisticated means. Their language was more passionate, more vivid, and more emphatic. Wordsworth believed poetry should express common human feelings, without restriction on the telling of man’s experiences.

In his preface to Lyrical Ballads, Wordsworth is basically “thinking aloud” on poems he’d already written in an attempt to formulate revised ideas about poetry. The two central ideas of the preface are the need for reforming poetic diction – which according to Wordsworth had become far too artificial – and the role of the poet in society. Wordsworth thought poetry had become too marginal. He had also come to the conclusion that the troubles of society were specifically urban in nature. He believed the insight of a poet to be higher than other people, but he did not think the poet should shout down from a lofty height. Rather, he should be one of the common human beings, who feels what others feel, and, accordingly, be able to describe common feelings and passions. The rub is that he must do so in the language of the everyday man.  According to Wordsworth, the responsibility of the poet is great because what others cannot express, he is to present in a comprehensible format.  He knows others think and see, but many lack the same comprehensive access to their sensory perception the poet can reach.

In 1843 Wordsworth was named poet laureate of England, though by this time he had pretty much put his pen to use only when revising or rearranging his poems. He had basically retired to merely publishing various editions, and entertaining guests and friends. When he died in 1850, he had for some years been venerated as a sage, his most ardent detractors glossing over the radical origins of his poetics and politics. Wordsworth’s prose, while not extensive – and often difficult – reveals the poet’s historical context. A careful reading of his prose will likely lead the reader to a clearer understanding of the path he traveled from the eighteenth century to the Victorian age, aiding modern readers in recognizing the origins of their own literary and political culture.

Romantic poets cultivated individualism, reverence for the natural world, idealism, physical and emotional passion, and an interest in the mystical and supernatural. Romantics set themselves in opposition to the order and rationality of classical and neoclassical artistic precepts in order to embrace freedom and revolution in their art and politics. Notable romantic poets include Fredrich Schiller, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Lord Byron, John Keats, and Victor Hugo.

Romanticism crossed the Atlantic through the work of American poets like Walt Whitman and Edgar Allan Poe. The romantic era produced many of the stereotypes of poets that persist today, including the poet as a tortured and melancholy visionary. Romantic ideals never died out in poetry, but were largely absorbed into the precepts of many other movements. Traces of romanticism have lived on in French symbolism and surrealism, and in the work of prominent poets such as Charles Baudelaire and Rainer Maria Rilke.

The Neighborhood Has Seen Better Days

This is a piece I wrote using the writing prompt, “The Neighborhood Has Seen Better Days.”

I’m twelve. Feels like I’ve been twelve forever. Time has been standing still this whole, hot steamy summer. There’s been plenty of chances to sit here on my steps and watch the cars whizz by. Oh, but the motorcycles. They are wonderful. Most people today ride without helmets. Hair flying about. Tee-shirts. Shorts. So cool. So absolutely dangerously cool. I’m so happy lately, living in a fine house with a wonderful mom, belly full, shoes on my feet. Plenty of shoes. Pretty shoes. Lots of dresses and dollies and teddy bears. My room is so nice and warm and purple. I think I even have six pillows. There’s nothing I love better than to climb up on my bed and bury myself in my blankets and dream of days when the neighborhood was a nicer place.

But today, right now, I am sitting on my stoop watching Mrs. Pauley argue with a man in a black suit holding a piece of paper. I remember playing hopscotch with Mrs. Pauley’s kids, racing bikes around the block, selling lemonade at our corner stand, and lazily brushing the dog on her front porch. Lilly, her middle daughter, was my best friend. I had her over to my house for a sleepover at least half-a-dozen times. Lilly kind of liked Tom, Ernie Conrad’s son. Ernie Conrad ran the neighborhood barber shop. My brother Steve was good friends with Tom. They spent many hot summer days in the air-conditioned shop reading Archie comics and sucking on Tootsie Roll Pops. The shop had mirrors on both walls, and the boys would stand and look at themselves in the never-ending reflections. Tiny copies of themselves over and over without end.

But poor Mrs. Pauley. She is right in the middle of trying to live her life. Raising a family of six. Happily married. Always smiling. Buying Girl Scout cookies. Feeding the birds. Serving as a Block Parent. A regular at PTA. Taking us to the community swimming pool, and even braving the cold in December to take us ice skating. A mom’s mom. A real nice lady. So it was very sad when her husband passed away. He had a great job at the railroad. My dad said Mr. Pauley made a lot of money. Things were fine at first, then the trouble started. The two-car family soon became a one-car family. My friend Lilly started going hungry. She ate at our house a lot. She told me her brothers and her sister were living with Mrs. Pauley’s parents. Notices started being posted on the front door. The porch wasn’t swept. Someone stole the wicker chairs. The windows remained filthy. I didn’t see Lilly as much. In fact, she missed a lot of school.

Which brings me to the afternoon I was sitting on the front steps of my porch. It was hot out. No air was moving. Mrs. Pauley was standing in the doorway, looking rather upset. There was a policeman and a county sheriff standing on either side. A man with a briefcase and handful of papers was arguing with Mrs. Pauley. She was starting to cry. I could tell the county sheriff was being sympathetic. Mrs. Pauley pleaded one last time, asking “Isn’t there something I can do?” The official-looking man in the dark suit shook his head no and reached out to post a paper on the door. I could see what it said from across the street. NOTICE TO VACATE.

I looked up and down the street. Trash littered the gutters. A car sat in front of Mr. Baker’s house with four flat tires. There was an empty lot where Ernie Conrad’s barber shop used to be. Most of the front porches were piled up with old furniture, busted exercise equipment and beat-up bicycles. There were broken mini blinds in the windows, and many had no curtains.

It seems the neighborhood had seen better days.

©2015 Steven Barto

Lynn

I’ve been less than connected to others during much of my life. I’m not so sure it was by choice. I often felt dark inside. Unable to receive light. To use illumination in any way. Such as to cast meaning and clarity on a situation. To show me a direction. To give sight where it didn’t seem to exist. It’s a singularly lonely feeling. An inability to latch on to others in any significant way. Sometimes it would feel like I was the only one in the room despite the cast of thousands swarming around me. I couldn’t even hear others breathing. Eye contact was not possible. The gaze of others was so bright it would cause me to squint and guard my eyes. All that content, all those queries, coming at me all at once. Blinding me. Confusing me. Causing me to shut down, which made it all the more impossible to go outside myself. Which, of course, led to cold, smothering, deep isolation.

I felt that way a lot. Communication was painful. Nauseating. I was fully shut down most of my childhood and teen years. We moved a lot as a family, which made my social awkwardness commonplace. It wasn’t just about girls. I liked girls. Obsessed over them. Oh, their lips and their curves. I was aware of every girl in the room. Not that I believed they were interested in me. I had too many problems dealing with people in general. Add sexual tension, and I was frozen in place.

I think that’s why it’s so fascinating to me that my first best friend was a girl. Lynn. She was cute. Not gorgeous. She had a fast reputation as a young woman, which sort of frightened me. (There’s no way I would know what to do.) Lynn was unique and otherworldly. She danced her own way. She did things she wanted to do, and she had no real sense of restraint. Her eyes were bright. Wide open. Telling. Funny thing though: I didn’t have to squint when I looked at her. The brightness I shied away from in others was warm and subdued in Lynn’s gaze. It was beyond a gaze, actually. It was a gentle peek inside. There was nothing threatening or overwhelming about her contact. I felt shallow and warm and alive when she looked at me. I felt aroused. Nothing too deep or complicated. No rules. No agenda. Just a slow sucking in. A natural feeling of compatibility. A very special feeling.

I didn’t quite understand what was going on between Lynn and I. We were not officially dating. But we were joined somehow; spiritually, maybe. It was as if we’d been gliding on a pathway of discovery and comprehension. No one ever understood me before Lynn. Freak that I was, I couldn’t understand me. I was lost even to myself, and so I couldn’t explain it. I had no respect for the feelings of others. You were no more than an object for me to use for my own ends. My ends were justified in my mind. There was only one way: the way I chose to go. I saw no other paths. I considered no consequences. Certainly, it was no concern to me how my behavior would effect someone else. This is, of course, the very root of my lack of friends. Even when my mistakes were pointed out to me, I couldn’t see them.

Except when they were pointed out by Lynn. She was gentle about it, and that was a first for me. No one had ever been gentle or respectful to me. It seemed that Lynn wanted me to learn something about myself that would lead to a happier life. She understood my isolation, and hoped to teach me of its source. She knew it wasn’t of my own doing. It was because of things that were done to me. My isolation was because of others. Lynn didn’t want me blaming myself for my lack of friendships despite my bad habits and selfish behaviors. She knew the egg (in this case) came before the chicken. My personality was hatched, in other words. Who I was and how I acted was a byproduct of how I was treated. Things were done to me in the name of love that affected me deeply.

Some days I wish Lynn were still here. She died of ovarian cancer ten years ago.

©2017 Steven Barto

First National Youth Poet Laureate

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Nineteen-year-old Amanda Gorman of Los Angeles was named the first national youth poet laureate on April 26, 2017. The unprecedented title, to be awarded annually, honors a teen poet who demonstrates not only extraordinary literary talent but also a proven record of community engagement and youth leadership. For me, this is a great development. Although I am long past my youth (58 years old), the institution of national youth poet laureate is something that was long overdue.

For Gorman, poetry and civic outreach aren’t separate interests. The Harvard University freshman knows firsthand that creative writing can build confidence and a sense of community among young people whose voices are often underrepresented in mainstream dialogue. In 2016 she founded One Pen One Page, a nonprofit organization that provides an “online platform and creative writing programs for student storytellers to change the world.” She continues to serve as the organization’s executive director.

Gorman’s own writing often addresses the intersections of race, feminism, and adolescence, as well as the changing landscape of her native Los Angeles. For both her poetry and her advocacy, Gorman has been recognized by Forbes, the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, the YoungArts Foundation, and the OZY Genius Awards. She has also performed on The Today Show, ABC Family, and Nickelodeon News, and helped introduce Hillary Clinton at the 2017 Global Leadership Awards. In my opinion, there is far too little emphasis, on any public or national level anyway, regarding the often painful process of growing up.

Gorman said, “For me, being able to stand on a stage as a spoken word poet, as someone who overcame a speech impediment, as the descendant of slaves who would have been prosecuted for reading and writing, I think it really symbolizes how, by pursuing a passion and never giving up, you can go as far as your wildest dreams. This represents such a significant moment because never in my opinion have the arts been more important than now.”

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Michael Cirelli, executive director of Urban Word NYC, says the program was founded on a belief that “young poets deserve to be in spaces of power, privilege, and governance, and to have their voices front and center of the sociopolitical dialogue happening in our city.” The role of poetry, especially in marginalized communities, is to provide a voice to those who are traditionally silenced, and the best way to effect social change is to provide platforms for youth to tell their stories. We hope to leverage our work to allow these diverse stories to be told in spaces that have historically omitted youth voices, and to energize and engage the issues that they are most passionate about.”

“I am so grateful to be part of this cohort of young creatives who are taking up their pens to have a voice for what is right and what is just,” Gorman said in her acceptance speech. “I don’t just want to write—I want to do right as well.”

Steven Barto

Excerpt from “The Forest For the Trees” by Betsy Lerner

Most writers, like most children, need to tell. The only problem is that much of what they need to tell will provoke the ire of parent-critics, who are determined to tell writer-children what they can and cannot say. Unless you have sufficient ego and feel entitled to tell your story, you will be stymied in your effort to create. You think you can’t write, but perhaps you can’t tell. Writing is nothing if not breaking the silence. The problem is, no one likes a snitch.

On top of this, contemporary critics would have us believe that we are in an age of unparalleled navel-gazing. On the contrary, there is far greater cultural censure in taking one’s pain seriously. As Alice Miller notes in her book Banished Knowledge, “Not to take one’s own suffering seriously, to make light of it or even laugh at it, is considered good manners in our culture. This attitude is even called a virtue, and many people are proud of their lack of sensitivity toward their own fate and above all their own childhood.”

For all the familial anxiety attendant on the publication of a first book, Lerner says she is always struck when she finds that the dedication page is devoted to the author’s parents. Indeed, some of the most damning books about childhood or family life are thus dedicated. Pat Conroy’s unforgettable first novel, The Great Santini, about the abuse a young boy suffers at the hands of his brutal military father, “is dedicated with love and thanks to Frances ‘Peggy’ Conroy, the grandest of mothers and teachers, and to Colonel Donald Conroy, U.S.M.C, Ret., the grandest of fathers and Marine aviators.” Dorothy Allison dedicated her first novel, Bastard Out of Carolina, a horrific story about the abuse of a young girl and her mother’s failure to protect her, to her deceased mother.

Of course, parental approval isn’t the most important thing in the world. One hopes that by the time a person reaches maturity, peer approval, mate approval, and, more important, self-approval, pick up where your parents leave off. But you don’t have to be a Freudian to recognize the impact of parental influence. Our childhood home is our world when we’re young, and within its walls we find safety and comfort or coldness and danger, or, more likely, something in between. We are praised and scolded according to a great many criteria, and we piece together our own little fictions of how and why we are the way we are.

If stories took you far away when you were a child, if characters from books kept you company as you peered out a rainy window and tried to discern that great mystery of how other people live, then you believe that books are the most important things in life. If you were drawn to books, and in turn to writing, chances are you found the world wanting. You knew that a record had to be kept, or the world or you would disappear. People are motivated to write for a variety of reasons, but it’s the child writer who has figured out, early on, that writing is about saving your soul.

Where, after all, does the drama of the gifted child begin but at her own dinner table? The material we continue to grapple with all our lives has more to do with that kid than any grown writer wants to admit. That’s where you were told in any number of spoken and unspoken ways that you were good enough, or not good enough, or too good to be true. That’s where you got the message that you would either go very far or amount to nothing. That’s where you first encountered acceptance or rejection. The messages you received may have enabled you to raise your hand in class, read your story aloud; something told you that people cared about what you had to say. Or perhaps you went underground because you sensed your ideas were shameful or dangerous. Or that you were suspect.

Just as one child takes the message of his glorious future and goes very far, another is paralyzed by the expectation. Likewise, the child who is consistently disparaged may make something of himself, just to show the bastard who called him worthless. Or he may set out on a course of self-destruction, believing himself as unworthy as the adult who crippled his small soul. But more than any emotional Molotov cocktail of abuse and deprivation, or any showers of love and support, Lerner thinks what determines whether the person goes on to become a serious writer is his or her tolerance or love of solitude.

Writing is, most times, a rather lonely profession.

Reference:

Lerner, B. (2010). The Forest for the Trees: An Editor’s Advice to Writers. New York, NY: Riverhead Books.

 

 

 

Monthly Book Review: “The Girl on the Train” by Paula Hawkins

“They are a perfect, golden couple,” Rachel Watson thinks, regarding handsome Jason and his striking wife, Jess. “He is dark-haired and well built, strong, protective, kind. He has a great laugh. She is one of those tiny bird-women, a beauty, pale-skinned with blond hair cropped short.” Rachel, the main narrator of Paula Hawkins’ novel The Girl on the Train, is obsessed with the pair. They represent to her the perfect relationship that she once had, or seemed to, before it imploded spectacularly.

She can’t stop thinking about Jason and Jess, but she doesn’t know them. She sees them through the window of a commuter train, one she takes each morning and evening on her commute to and from London. The couple, whose real names are Megan and Scott, live a few houses away from the one Rachel used to occupy, before her alcoholism poisoned her relationship with her husband, leading to divorce. “They’re a match, they’re a set,” Rachel reflects. “They’re happy, I can tell. They’re what I used to be, they’re Tom and me five years ago. They’re what I lost, they’re everything I want to be.”

On the train one day, Rachel sees Megan on her patio kissing an unknown man. The next day, Megan’s disappearance is announced on the news. Rachel jumps into the case head-first, offering herself to the police as a potential witness, and to Scott as an ally, but given her overt alcoholism and frequent lies about her life, comes to seem to the police and Scott like an unreliable narrator. On the night that Megan went missing, Rachel happened to have been drunk, possibly stalking her ex-husband and his new family. The problem: She can’t remember anything.

The point of view in The Girl on the Train alternates among three characters: luckless, obsessed Rachel; charming, complicated Megan; and Anna, the new love of Rachel’s ex-husband Tom. Alternating points of view is a tricky prospect. It can easily come off as unnecessary or gimmicky, but Hawkins uses the technique masterfully, giving just enough away in each chapter. None of the revelations in the book are tidy, and the picture gets much murkier before the mystery is resolved. Much of the complexity of the novel is due to Rachel, an exceptionally unreliable narrator with a tendency to pass out drunk, forgetting everything that happened the day before.

The writing is excellent, lending itself easily to cinematic style, so I was not surprised when I read last year that the book was on its way to the big screen. The story pays tribute to Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train and Rear Window in the best possible way. The ending plays out like a movie scene. Although Hawkins has a well-established career as a journalist, this is her first novel. Not surprisingly, it debuted on the New York Times fiction best sellers list at number one. I rank this finely crafted novel right up there with The Lovely Bones, Gone Girl, and The Arsonist.

Old Love Letters by Tosha Michelle

Please enjoy the following piece written by my blogger friend Tosha Michelle. You should check out her blog at https://laliterati.com/

Imagine discovering a box
of old love letters.
At first glance the language
is hard to decipher,
written in the secret code
of lovers.
A past you can barely
recall. The girl
you were long since gone.
You marvel at his
dotted Is and counterstrokes,
knowing now he had
something to hide, that he
left no clues.
But now you know to read the
movement, the pattern
of his hands. You’ll trace
the beauty and betrayal
of young love by
the placement of
the periods, the allusions
and faulty script.
The blueprint of  heartache
and blue  eyes.

-Tosha Michelle

Stephen King on Writing

Stephen King has published 57 novels, all of them bestsellers. He has sold more than 350 million copies world wide. According to Forbes, he earns approximately $40 million per year, making him one of the richest writers in the world. He is number 6 on the Forbes list of top 50 writers, and has a net worth of $400 million.

In 2002, King temporarily abandoned writing horror novels. Instead, he wrote On Writing, a book that chronicles his rise to fame and discusses exactly what he believes it takes to become a good writer. Since then, it’s become the most popular book about writing ever written, pulling in over 1000 reviews on Amazon, selling God only knows how many copies. Check the book out here.

I’ve read On Writing from cover to cover at least three times, and each time, I saw a noticeable improvement in my writing. I am particularly fond of King’s “tool box” metaphor. The book teaches the fundamentals of the craft, which is something no writer should ignore. It also sort of rubs off on you. The first half of the book is dedicated to King’s experiences as a writer. Basically a short biography. He candidly discusses his troubles with alcohol and cocaine, as well as the incident when he was run over by a van while walking his dog. The second part is very succinct, covering every aspect of the craft of writing.

King has recently published a list of some of the habits that will help you become a great writer. He advises to write because it fulfills you. Do it for the pure joy of writing. Writing isn’t about making money. Rather, it’s about enriching the lives of those who will read your work. Remember, you can’t please all of the writers all of the time. Do you want to crack the code for writing popular blog posts? It helps to keep a notebook and pen with you at all times. Jot down ideas you could write about. Make a special note of the ones that you believe 80% of your readers would find irresistible. Now, write about those topics and nothing else.

It’s okay to approach the act of writing with nervousness. It is also okay to experience despair. King says, “You must not come lightly to the blank page.” If you want the world to take you seriously, first you have to take yourself seriously. You have to look at your blog as not just a blog, but an opportunity to change the world. Then write as if the whole world is reading. If you are just starting off as a writer, consider cutting the plug off the end of your TV. King decided to do a test. He cut his TV time to one show per day, and invested the time reading. His creativity exploded. He went from writing 1,000 words per day to pumping out over 2,000 words per day in the same amount of time. He said, “Television may be popular, but it’s poisonous to creativity, and all truly dedicated writers need to limit their exposure to it.” If you want to be a writer, there are two things you must do: read, read, read; and, you guessed it, write, write, write.

King believes writing is a distilled art form. It is also refined thinking. A lot of books on writing tell you to write like you talk. While that’s fine for a beginner, it’s death if you ever want to be a respected writer. Yes, your writing should be conversational, but it should be the conversation you would have if you had time to think everything through and say exactly the right things. The truth is, any great piece of writing is preceded by hours and hours of thinking.

It is important for a writer to experience the mediocre and the outright rotten. Such experiences will help the writer recognize when these things creep in to his or her writing, and steer clear of them. When confronted with pathetic  writing, most people click the back button and go for something else, which is understandable. I’ve been there many times. That’s fine if you’re just a reader. If you’re a writer, on the other hand, you’re far better served by sticking around and analyzing exactly what makes the blog so pathetic. They become captivated by your words. You won’t have to beg your readers for their attention. They will follow you to the ends of the earth.

Happy writing!