Jacki Kellum

Juxtapositions: Read My Mind

Category: Stephen King

There Is Nothing More Refreshing Than a Morning in September

There is nothing more refreshing than a morning in September.

One advantage of living in the North is that as soon as the calendar hits September 1, PLOP! The curtain drops! And It Turns Fall! That doesn’t happen in the South. I remember my school-teaching days in Mississippi. I remember standing out on the asphalt parking lot and waiting for the kids to load into the buses. The heat was so intense that I felt as though I was baking–literally baking–I half-expected that my flesh would begin to fall off my bones–pulled-pork style.

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In another week or two, I’ll begin singing my September Song about how we all need to book our plans to go to the Poconos to watch the leaves change in the land of endless trees and waterfalls. That is an awe-inspiring, mouth-dropping experience, but it is not what I do to recreate myself. Any trip requires packing and traveling and unpacking and packing again and traveling again and unpacking again and then, playing catch-up for several days afterward. Autumn does have a restorative power, but the best place for me to take advantage of that power is to open my back door and to simply go outside and into my garden.

“Outside the leaves on the trees constricted slightly; they were the deep done green of the beginning of autumn. It was a Sunday in September. There would only be four. The clouds were high and the swallows would be here for another month or so before they left for the south before they returned again next summer.”
― Ali Smith, The Whole Story and Other Stories

In the North, we have some hot days in summer, but summer doesn’t last as long here as it does in the South. I have laughed, saying that I believe that whoever broke the years into seasons lived in New Jersey, because in New Jersey, we have 4 distinctive seasons, and you can bank on the weather’s changing at exactly the time that it is supposed to change. September should look and feel like the beginning of fall, and that is how things are in New Jersey.

“[T]hat old September feeling, left over from school days, of summer passing, vacation nearly done, obligations gathering, books and football in the air … Another fall, another turned page: there was something of jubilee in that annual autumnal beginning, as if last year’s mistakes had been wiped clean by summer.” ― Wallace Stegner, Angle of Repose

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My purple asters have begun to bloom in my garden, and this year, I have been rewarded by the opportunity to watch the fascinating life cycle of the monarchs who have come to sip the nectar from my asters and t munch on my milkweed. My black-eyed Susans are about done for the year, and my garden’s purples need some golden yellow now, but that is no problem. The garden centers here are brimming with pots of yellow chrysanthemums and bunches of dried corn stalks. The pumpkins are standing in columns, making promises about the army of jack-lantern grins that are in the ranks behind them.

We’ll still have some days that are typical of Indian Summer here, but by September 1 in New Jersey, it is time to begin looking for last season’s flannel shirts and leggings because by September 1 in New Jersey, fall has begun.

“But when fall comes, kicking summer out on its treacherous ass as it always does one day sometime after the midpoint of September, it stays awhile like an old friend that you have missed. It settles in the way an old friend will settle into your favorite chair and take out his pipe and light it and then fill the afternoon with stories of places he has been and things he has done since last he saw you.” ― Stephen King, ‘Salem’s Lot

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“The first flash of color always excites me as much as the first frail, courageous bloom of spring. This is, in a sense, my season–sometimes warm and, when the wind blows an alert, sometimes cold. But there is a clarity about September. On clear days, the sun seems brighter, the sky more blue, the white clouds take on marvelous shapes; the moon is a wonderful apparition, rising gold, cooling to silver; and the stars are so big. The September storms–the hurricane warnings far away, the sudden gales, the downpour of rain that we have so badly needed here for so long–are exhilarating, and there’s a promise that what September starts, October will carry on, catching the torch flung into her hand.” ― Faith Baldwin, Evening Star

Without a doubt, I am a bit of a Rip Van Winkle, and I have a tendency to sleep-walk through chunks of time, but autumn is the season that always awakens and recreates me.

September Song
by Jacki Kellum

I just took a nap for my mind, to see,
Flickering fae breath blew in, restored me.
Visions of sugarplums danced, set me free.
Sang me that September song.

Rain showers dripped down through the limbs of my tree.
Moonbeams and crystal shards lit up my sea.
Soft webs and angel hair dropped from a flea,
And tow-tugged my leaf-boat along.

©Jacki Kellum September 16, 2017

Recreate

Learning to Trust Your Intuition – Your Writer’s Voice

When I am painting and when I am writing, I consider it a great day when something within myself takes over and essentially completes my project for me. This gentle urging is intuition. It is the spark that helped Michelangelo release his sculptures from a piece of rock, and it is your writer’s voice.

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Yesterday, I wrote about my use of brilliant colors when I paint at jackikellum.com Here

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Janis Joplin – Watercolor by Jacki Kellum

Readers commented that they admire my bravery when I paint, and I should have said that I am not the brave part of my painting team. My intuition is. When I am having a good painting day, an inward force literally takes control of my hand and urges it to dip into a little more and slash it here or a little pink and slash it there.

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In the Pink – Watercolor by Jacki Kellum

If I look carefully at my painting repeatedly and squint my eyes regularly as I paint, an internal voice takes over and tells me what to do where. I merely go into auto pilot, and I allow my intuition to do the heavy lifting. When I am having a good writing day, the same thing happens with my words–they begin to write themselves.

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I wrote a poem about how my intuition guides me as I write. The title of that poem is On Silver Sheets, I Sail. When I am writing my first drafts, I usually write in a stream of consciousness. I don’t stop and edit myself. I rarely correct my spelling as I writer. I simply hop on my laptop and begin typing the words that enter my mind. I love this type of writing. When I edit, however, my stream of consciousness is not at play, and I no longer enjoy writing. People who try to edit themselves too early never allow themselves to enjoy the intuition’s free ride, and they often feel that they are experiencing Writer’s Block. They are actually experiencing a type of fear that is the enemy of creativity.

Fear is the worst thing that can happen to anyone who hopes to create.

Fear prevents the painter from painting, and he forces the writer to edit himself literally to death.

Secrets About Life Every Woman Should Know: Ten Principles for Total Emotional and Spiritual Fulfillment by [De Angelis, Barbara] Barbara de Angelis wrote an excellent treatise on Fear: [image credit Amazon]

“Imagine that you had a person in your life who followed you around twenty-four hours a day, filling you with anxiety, destroying your confidence, and discouraging you from doing the things that you wanted to do. Every time you were about to make a change or take a risk, the person would say, ‘I wouldn’t do that if I were you. What if you fail? What if you get hurt? All kinds of things might happen if you go in that direction.’ Imagine that before each conversation you had with friends, family, or loved ones, the person would pull you aside and caution you. ‘If you open up, you might get rejected. Watch what you say! Don’t trust anyone! . . . ” Barbara De Angelis

Fear is like an emotional roommate that lives with you day and night.

“It’s your fear. Fear is like an emotional roommate that lives with you day and night. It talks to you, manipulates you, and tries to convince you to avoid doing or expressing anything that may cause you any kind of discomfort or involve any sort of risk. It says, ‘You can’t’ . . . and ‘You shouldn’t.,’ and it eats away at your confidence and your self-esteem. It tells you not to act, not to reach out, not to try, not to trust, not to move. It steals the life right out from under you. . . .” Barbara De Angelis

Fear is one of your most powerful inner enemies. It is a force that can sabotage your happiness.

“Fear is one of your most powerful inner enemies. It is a force that can sabotage your happiness. How does fear do that? It keeps you stuck in what’s not working. It prevents you from growing. It keeps separation between you and other people. It talks you out of your dreams. It keeps you stagnant, frozen, unable to become all you were meant to be. . . .” Barbara De Angelis

“It is fear that keeps us standing on the cliff when we know that we need to leap to the other side. But fear does more than just hold you back–it steals your aliveness, your passion, your freedom by shutting down your heart. . . .The extent to which you allow fear to control your life is the extent to which you are living as a prisoner.

I read De Angelis’s book 25 years ago, and it is undoubtedly the most inspirational of any self-help book that I have ever read.  Although the book is supposedly for women, I feel that the passages about Fear are appropriate for most artists and writers. Fear is one of a creative’s most crippling forces.

After years of being muted by my own fear, I finally gained enough stamina to simply override my restraints and to create in spite of my fear. But that was a long and uphill climb.

 You can read excerpts from De Angelis’s book on her Facebook Page Here

You can also read a great deal of her writing at Google Books Here

When I saw that today’s writing prompt is “Trust,” I initially thought of the song on the movie Peter Pan, You Can Fly.

“All it takes is faith and trust. Oh, and something I forgot. . . just a little bit of pixie dust. . . .
Come on everybody, here we go–Off to Neverland! . . .
There’s a Neverland waiting for you, where all your happy dreams come true,
Every dream that you dream will come true.”

I know, you are probably thinking that you simply don’t have the pixie dust, but you do. Everyone has the pixie dust that is needed for creating. It is your intuition. I am firmly convinced that a type of creative angel does lie within each of us and that as we begin the process of writing or painting or sculpting or dancing, we release that muse, and the muse takes on a life of its own. It is important to note, however, that it is through the work that we tap into the muse. In other words: “Which comes first, the chicken or the egg?” In regards to writing, the work of simply writing comes first, and the muse follows.

“One reason I don’t suffer Writer’s Block is that I don’t wait on the muse, I summon it at need.” – Piers Anthony

When people say that they only write when they are in the mood to write, they are missing something very important. In fact, they are cheating themselves. In writing, “the mood” or the muse evolves after we begin to write. Perpetuating the myth that we can postpone writing until we are in the mood to write is buying into a falsehood. That is why many writers advocate writing morning pages. Most people who actually succeed with their writing careers say that in order to pop the cork that is bottling all of the things that are within themselves, they must first begin to write. Gradually, the mood or the muse or the intuition takes over, and the writer is unblocked.

Writing is a spiritual practice in that people that have no spiritual path can undertake it and, as they write, they begin to wake up to a larger connection. After a while, people tend to find that there is some muse that they are connecting to. Julia Cameron

The most important decision that is necessary for every writer and every painter and every musician is that of deciding whether you really want to be an artist or not. After that, the most important step is to show up each day and begin to work at creating what you want to create.

“You can’t build a reputation on what you are going to do.” – Henry Ford

After you have committed to showing up to write each day, do the following to unlock your muse or your intuition or your artistic voice:

First, You Need to Prime Your Pump

1. Ask yourself what you are passionate about. Start there!

Initially, you might not be able to recall any of your passions. You might think that life has kicked all of the passion out of you,  but you are wrong. If that were true, you wouldn’t be here, sitting in front of the computer, trying to decide what to write. You would still be vegetating in front of the television. You are still alive. Dig deeper.

2. Overcome Lethargy

Perhaps you feel that you are sinking in the quicksand of your own lethargy. Keep a canister of writing prompts handy to fight that problem, and when you are experiencing writer’s block, pull out one of those prompts and write about that.

The New York Times published a list of 500 great writing prompts Here.

Grab hold of one of those prompts and allow it to be your rope. Allow that to pull you out of your pit of lethargy.

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Every morning, I try to respond to the WordPress Daily Prompt. Read how you can also do that Here. Today’s writer’s prompt is “Trust.”

3. Begin with a Quote

Often, when I see the WordPress Daily Prompt, I cannot initially think of anything to write. When a prompt is not enough to motivate me, I often turn to Google, and I do a Google search for quotes that might correlate with a word that I associate with the prompt. One morning’s WordPress Prompt was “Admire,” and I was not readily drawn to that topic. I performed two Google searches. One time I searched exactly the following words: “Quotes Admire.” The second time, I searched exactly the following words, “Quotes Admiration,” and after my searches, it was not long before I had written my own opinions about the prompt “Admire.” You can see what I wrote Here 

4. Write First – Title Later

When I begin writing a piece, I refrain from titling it. In fact, I do not title anything until I finish writing the piece entirely. Titling is a Writing-Stopper. A title is like a straight jacket. If you try to title first, you limit yourself because you write trying to confine yourself to the topic of the title. Just write, let the title spring from the writing. Begin to say what you want to say and allow your writing to evolve. Then title.

5. Allow Your Intuition to Do the Heavy Lifting of Your Writing

Creating any type of art requires that a series of decisions be made by the artist: red here? more grass? less water?, etc. When the intuition is fully functioning, the artist is hardly even aware of the questions–the intuition handles the question and answer dialog. Before this can happen, however, the artist must first allow Intuition to get his foot into the door; and then, the artist must learn to trust the decisions that Intuition makes for him. Intense listening with one’s inner ear–the intuitive ear– is a vital part of sharpening one’s inner eye or his writer’s voice and thus, of extracting a piece’s inward significance. Intuition and the Inner Artist are linked. Intuition is the instinctive way that one’s inner artist views and responds to life. When a painter allows intuition to guide him, the painter himself becomes a vessel and the art flows through the vessel. The same thing is true of the writer.

Knowing why one does this or that while creating is not important–just doing is the key to becoming. Making art is an intuitive response. When writers can access the words that lie within themselves, they begin to write more authentically. When writers create from within their intuitions, they often call that writing from “The Zone,” but it is actually writing from the intuition, which a reservoir of thoughts and emotions that run deeply within each person. The secret is tapping into that reservoir. You simply have to turn off your self-editor and allow the magic to begin. And then you have to Trust the process.

6. Don’t Worry About What Everyone Else Is Thinking about Your Writing

“You wouldn’t worry so much about what others think of you if you realized how seldom they do.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

Other people aren’t focusing on you. Quite worrying about what they think of you.  Just focus on yourself and your own goals and begin to write. Remember that you are writing to express yourself–not to express everyone else. Just talk–in plain language [Shakespearean English is out]–and say why these words are meaningful to you. People are more alike than you might think. Others will identify. Write it, they will read.

7. Write Naturally – Give Up the Idea that You Should Write Like Shakespeare

Please Don’t Thee and Thou Me
by Jacki Kellum

Please don’t Thee and Thou me.
That’s such a stuffy start.
That’s not the way to wow me,
Just say it from your heart.
©Jacki Kellum February 3, 2016

Jacki Kellum Rules for Writing Poetry – Rule Number 1

  1. Don’t try to use stilted, pretentious, poetry-sounding words. Just talk.

©Jacki Kellum February 3, 2016

7. Turn Off Your Self-Editor

Write first. Let it flow. Just talk. Spell later. As you begin to write, don’t worry about spell check at first. Getting stumped by spelling is another Writing-Stopper. Write first–then spell check; then correct the spelling. It might even help to do the writing and editing in a Word Document and then paste it into WordPress. Whatever it takes, do it, but don’t let you editing strangle your writing.

8. Consider Recording Your Writing and Then Transcribing It

If you cannot keep your self-editor in check, allow your cell phone‘s voice recorder to help you.  Just pick up your cell phone and download a voice recorder app and talk to the recorder. You can even send yourself lengthy voice messages and transcribe those. A friend of mine had a great idea for this. She said to send your message to yourself via email, and it will already be typed for you. How easy is that?

Image result for stephen kingIn his book Stephen King On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, King said that he believes “…that stories are found things, like fossils in the ground….” He added:

“Stories are relics, part of an undiscovered pre-existing word. The writer’s job is to…get as much of each one out of the ground [p. 163] intact as possible.

….

“Plot is, I think, the good writer’s last resort and the dullard’s first choice. The story which results from it is apt to feel artificial and labored.

“I lean more heavily on intuition, and have been able to do that because my books tend to be based on situation rather than story.

“I want to put a group of characters (perhaps a pair; perhaps even just one_in some sort of predicament and then watch them try to work themselves free. My job isn’t to help them work their way free, or manipulate them to safety..but to watch what happens and then write it down.

“The situation comes first. The characters–always flat and unfeatured, to begin with–come next. … I have never demanded of a set [p. 164] of characters that they do things my way. On the contrary, I want them to do things their way. In some instances, the outcome is what I visualized. In most, however, it is something I never expected.” King, Stephen. On Writing: A Memoir of Craft, pgs. 163-65.

 

©Jacki Kellum October 16, 2016

Trust

Jacki Kellum Free Writing Course Exercise 2: Write about Your Town

Jacki Kellum Free Writing Course Exercise 2: Write about a Town or a Neighborhood Where You Have Lived

The second  Blog to Memoir writing assignment might seem easy, but don’t over-analyze the assignment or your response. Simply think about all of the towns where you have lived and describe one of them. Grab a breath of fresh air and begin writing.

Note: If you grew up in a big city, like New York City, you may want to write two articles–one about all of New York City and one about the area where you lived, like Long Island or Manhattan.

After you decide the area to describe, begin writing.

  1. Don’t stop writing for about ten minutes.
  2. Don’t hesitate,
  3. Don’t erase.
  4. Don’t correct your spelling.
  5. Don’t try to edit as you write.

In a matter-of-fact way that as near to your own speaking voice as possible, simply write what you know about a town or a neighborhood where you have lived. You may want to describe the natural setting of the area. You may want to share a legend that you have heard about the county. You may want to say what you liked about the county and you may want to say what you disliked. As long as you are honest, it really does not matter what you write. Just write.

When I write a description, I close my eyes and look with my mind’s eyes at what I am describing. When I see the place or the object clearly, I simply write the words that describe it.

Later, we’ll do more with your writing for this first assignment. Don’t throw it away. It is not necessary for you to share what you write. It is not necessary that you blog your response. Simply write and save your writing.

This exercise will make more sense for people who live in smaller towns. People who live in large cities may want to write two article: one about their cities and one about the neighborhoods where they grew up.

List of Fictional Towns:

When I think about writing that has evolved around fictional towns that were inspired by the writers’ homes, I immediately recall Winesburg, Ohio, and Our Town, but more contemporary books have also evolved in the same way:

In Under the Dome, Stephen King’s Chester Mills, Maine, is based on Bridgton, Maine, which is one of Stephen King’s hometowns.

Bathsheba Monk’s Cokesville, Pa, is also based on the area where she grew up.

Now You See It . . .: Stories from Cokesville, PA by [Monk, Bathsheba]

It’s pretty much a straight shot from the upstate New York towns of Richard Russo’s books to Bathsheba Monk’s Cokesville, PA. This is coal and steel country. The sort of place where an inch of soot on the windowsill means a regular paycheck—and two inches means a fat one. And what’s the best make-out spot in town? Next to the burning slag heap.

In seventeen beguiling, linked stories, spanning fourty-five years, Monk brings a corner of America alive as never before. Her world bursts with indelible characters: Mrs. Szilborski, who bakes great cake, but sprays her neighbors’ dogs with mace; and Mrs. Wojic, who believes her husband was reincarnated—as one of those dogs. Then there is the younger generation: Annie Kusiak , who wants to write, and Theresa Gojuk, who dreams of stardom. Cokesville is their Yoknapatawpha; they ache to escape it and the ghosts of their ancestors and the regret of their parents. What ghosts—and what regrets! When Theresa’s father Bruno falls into a vat of molten steel, the mill gives the family an ingot roughly his weight to bury.

As deliciously wry as Allegra Goodman in The Family Markowitz, and with the matter-of-fact humanity of Grace Paley, Bathsheba Monk leads us into a world that is at once totally surprising and recognizable. These stories glow like molten steel. Amazon

This is the area where Bathsheba Monk grew up.

From The New Yorker

Monk, who grew up in Pennsylvania coal-and-steel country, sets her stories in the fictional town of Cokesville, where gardens grow through slag heaps, women scrub their sidewalks free of soot, and men scrounge for jobs that are likely to kill or maim. Set mostly among Polish immigrants and their descendants over a forty-year period, the stories use deadpan humor to combat a sense of hopelessness and economic futility. The most compelling are narrated by an adolescent would-be writer determined to avoid the “lava show” make-out spot, where carts dump molten coke and girls her age get pregnant. Even those who escape, however, can’t seem to free themselves from the slow burn of their heritage, much like a decades-old underground coal fire, ignited “when someone dumped a load of garbage down a mine shaft.”=

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“Winesburg, Ohio (full title: Winesburg, Ohio: A Group of Tales of Ohio Small-Town Life) is a 1919 short story cycle by the American author Sherwood Anderson. The work is structured around the life of protagonist George Willard, from the time he was a child to his growing independence and ultimate abandonment of Winesburg as a young man. It is set in the fictional town of Winesburg, Ohio (not to be confused with the actual Winesburg), which is based loosely on the author’s childhood memories of Clyde, Ohio.

“Mostly written from late 1915 to early 1916, with a few stories completed closer to publication, they were “…conceived as complementary parts of a whole, centered in the background of a single community.”[1] . . .

“Winesburg, Ohio was received well by critics despite some reservations about its moral tone and unconventional storytelling. Though its reputation waned in the 1930s, it has since rebounded and is now considered one of the most influential portraits of pre-industrial small-town life in the United States.[5]

“In 1998, the Modern Library ranked Winesburg, Ohio 24th on its list of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century.[6] . . .

“It is widely acknowledged that the fictional model of the book’s town, Winesburg, is based on Sherwood Anderson’s boyhood memories of Clyde, Ohio,[18][19] where Anderson lived between the ages of eight and nineteen (1884–1896),[20] and not the actual town of Winesburg, Ohio located in the same state. This view is supported by the similarities between the names and qualities of several Winesburg characters and Clyde’s townspeople,[21] in addition to mentions of specific geographic details of Clyde[1] and the surrounding area.[22]” Wikipedia

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“Our Town is a 1938 metatheatrical three-act play by American playwright Thornton Wilder. It tells the story of the fictional American small town of Grover’s Corners between 1901 and 1913 through the everyday lives of its citizens.” Wikipedia

“Throughout, Wilder uses metatheatrical devices, setting the play in the actual theater where it is being performed. The main character is the stage manager of the theater who directly addresses the audience, brings in guest lecturers, fields questions from the audience, and fills in playing some of the roles. The play is performed without a set on a mostly bare stage. With a few exceptions, the actors mime actions without the use of props.

“Our Town was first performed at McCarter Theatre in Princeton, New Jersey in 1938.[1] It later went on to success on Broadway and won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. It remains popular today and revivals are frequent.” Wikipedia

©Jacki Kellum October 2, 2016

Pretending to Write at Barnes and Noble – Stephen King Says If You Are Serious about Writing, Read More and Write More

I know that you have seen them. They are the people who load all of their writing gadgets and gear into their SUV’s and spread it across one or two of the few available tables at Barnes and Noble. They arm themselves with a Grande Espresso, and then, they begin yet another day of pretending to write at Barnes and Noble.

Perhaps I am being too harsh, but when I see folks who are trying very hard to play one part or another, I remember the Drugstore Hunters in Mississippi. Until I was 53-years-old, I lived in the Deep South, and hunting is still a great sport in the South. The fall is the time for dove hunting, and people hunt ducks during the winter.  My ex-husband had four brothers and probably had at least ten male cousins. That family was serious about hunting, and they always came home from their hunting trips laughing about this “Drugstore Hunter” or that. A Drugstore Hunter is someone who buys all of the most expensive hunting gadgets and dresses himself beautifully for his hunts, but he is not actually a hunter. In fact, many of the drugstore hunters may never leave the lodge or the hunting camp. They may spend the entire hunt drinking and partying. When I see the people making a great show of writing at Barnes and Noble, I always chuckle and whisper under my breath: “Drugstore Writers.” For many years, I was probably a Drugstore Writer–someone who likes to pretend to write–but now, I am buckling down and actually moving forward a bit. My bedroom is on the top floor of my house, and when I write, I prop myself up on my bed, put my laptop on my lap, and I just write.

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My room isn’t usually this neat, however. In fact, I moved my bed toward the center of the room and I have a bookshelf loaded with books that I am currently reading. That bookshelf is next to my bed.

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I have decided to heed Stephen King’s advice:

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“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut.” King, Stephen. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, p. 145.

“One learns most clearly what not to do by reading bad prose….
“Good writing, on the other hand, teaches the learning writer about style, graceful narration, plot development, the creations of believable characters, and truth-telling.  A novel like The Grapes of Wrath may fill a new writer with feelings of despair and good old-fashioned jealousy–‘I’ll never be able to write anything that good, not is I live to be a thousand’–but such feelings can also serve as a spur, goading the writer to work harder and aim higher. Being swept away by a combination of great story and great writing–of being flattened, in fact–is part of every writer’s necessary formation. You cannot hope to sweep someone else away by the force of your writing until it has been done to you. [p. 146]

“So we read to experience the mediocre and the outright rotten; such experience helps us to recognize those things when they begin to creep into our own work, and to steer clear of them. We also read to measure ourselves against the good and the great, to get a sense of all that can be done. And we read in  order to experience different styles.” King, Stephen. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, pgs. 146-47.

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“It’s hard for me to believe that people who read very little (or not at all in some cases) should presume to write and expect people to like what they have written, but I know it’s true. If I had a nickel for every person who ever told me he/she wanted to become a writer but ‘didn’t have time to read,’ I could buy myself a pretty good steak dinner. Can I be blunt on this subject?

If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that. – Stephen King

“Reading is the creative center of a writer’s life, I take a book with me everywhere I go, and find there all sorts of opportunities to dip it. The trick is to teach yourself to read in small sips as well as in long swallows. Waiting rooms were made for books–of course! But so are theater lobbies before the show, long and boring checkout lines, and everyone’s [p. 147] the john. You can even read while you’re driving, thanks to the audiobook revolution.

. . .

“Where else can you read? There’s always the treadmill….

“Once weaned from the ephemeral craving for TV, most people will find they enjoy the time they spend reading. I’d like to suggest that turning off that endlessly quacking box is apt to improve the quality of your life as well as the quality of your writing.” King, Stephen. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, pgs. 148-49.

“…when you find something at which you are talented, you do it (whatever it is) until your fingers bleed or your eyes are ready to fall out of your head. Even when no one is listening (or reading, or watching), every outing is a bravura performance, because you as the creator are happy. Perhaps even ecstatic. That goes for reading and writing as well as for playing a musical instrument, hitting a baseball, or running the four-forty.

“The sort of strenuous reading and writing program I advocate–four to six hours a day, every day–will not seem strenuous if you really enjoy doing these things and have an aptitude for them….” Stephen King

“the real importance of reading is that it creates an ease and intimacy with the process of writing….Constant reading will pull you  into a place (a mind-set, if you like the phrase) where you can write eagerly and without self-consciousness. It also offers you a constantly growing knowledge of what has been done and what hasn’t, what is trite and what is fresh, what works and what just lies there dying (or dead) on the page. The more you read, the less apt you are to make a fool of yourself with your pen or word processor.” King, Stephen. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, p. 150.

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“…’read a lot, write a lot’ is the Great Commandment….” King, Stephen. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, p. 151.

“I like to get ten pages a day, which amounts to 2,000 words. That’s 180,000 words over a three-month span, a goodish length for a book….” King, Stephen. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, p. 155.

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“Like you bedroom, your writing room should be private, a place where you go to dream. Your schedule–in at about the same time every day…exists in order to habituate yourself, to make yourself ready to dream….In both writing and sleeping, we learn to be physically still at the same time we are encouraging our minds to unlock from the humdrum rational thinking of our daytime lives….

“But you need the room, you need the door, and you need the determination to shut the door. You need a concrete goal, as well.

. . .

“Don’t wait for the muse.” – Stephen King

 

. . .

“This isn’t the Ouija board or the spirit-world we’re talking about here, just another job like laying pipe or driving long-haul trucks. Your job is to make sure the muse knows where you’re going to be every day from nine ’til noon or seven ’til three. If he does know, I assure you that sooner or later he’ll start showing up, chomping his cigar and making his magic.”  King, Stephen. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, pgs. 156-57.

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Allow me to return to my initial point: if we are serious about writing, we won’t be flittering our days away, making a huge display of our efforts at Bares and Noble or at Starbucks or at any other public place. When I am at Barnes and Noble, I am looking at books or at all of the Drugstore Writers. I am not there to write. When I want to write, I prop up in my bed, and I turn the rest of the world off. Then, I begin to write. I don’t wait for my muse to beat me to my writing spot. I simply show up and write. Try it. It works.

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Yesterday, on jackikellum.com, I posted a great reading list for writers who want to write about their own lives, and honestly, all of us write about our own lives–in one way or another. Mary Karr Reading List Here

©Jacki Kellum September 25, 2016

Pretend

Stephen King Discusses the Problems Faced by Timid Writers – Overuse of Adverbs & Use of the Passive Voice – Just Jump In and Write

Fear is the worst thing that can happen to anyone who hopes to create.

Fear prevents the painter from painting, and he forces the writer to edit himself literally to death.

Secrets About Life Every Woman Should Know: Ten Principles for Total Emotional and Spiritual Fulfillment by [De Angelis, Barbara] Barbara de Angelis wrote an excellent treatise on Fear: [image credit Amazon]

“Imagine that you had a person in your life who followed you around twenty-four hours a day, filling you with anxiety, destroying your confidence, and discouraging you from doing the things that you wanted to do. Every time you were about to make a change or take a risk, the person would say, ‘I wouldn’t do that if I were you. What if you fail? What if you get hurt? All kinds of things might happen if you go in that direction.’ Imagine that before each conversation you had with friends, family, or loved ones, the person would pull you aside and caution you. ‘If you open up, you might get rejected. Watch what you say! Don’t trust anyone! . . . ” Barbara De Angelis

Fearful writers face an abundance of problems that I have discussed before, but in his book On Writing,  Stephen King reminds us of another set of problems caused by fearful writing–the problems associated with timidity. He begins by saying that time writers make the mistake of using passive verbs:

“Verbs come in two types, active and passive. With an active verb, the subject of the sentence is doing something. With a passive verb, something is being done to the subject of the sentence. [p. 122].

. . .

“The passive voice is safe. There is no troublesome action to contend with; the subject just has to close its eyes and think of England, to paraphrase Queen Victoria. I think unsure writers also feel the passive voice somehow lends their work authority, perhaps even a majesty.

. . .

“The timid fellow writes The meeting will be held at seven o’clock….Purge this quiggling thought! Don’t be a muggle! Throw back you shoulders, stick out your chin, and put that meeting in charge! Write The meeting’s at seven. There, by God! Don’t you feel better?

. . .

“You should avoid the passive tense….Suppose, for instance, a fellow dies in the kitchen but ends up somewhere else. The body was carried from the kitchen and placed on the parlor sofa is a fair way to put this, although ‘was carried’ and ‘was placed’ still irk the shit out of me…. What I would embrace is Freddy and Myra carried the body out of the kitchen and laid it on the parlor sofa. Why does the body have to be the subject of the sentence, anyway? It’s dead, for Christ’s sake! [p.123].

. . .

The writer threw the rope, not The rope was thrown by the writer. Please oh please.

. . .

“Adverbs, like the passive voice, seem to have been created with the timid writer in mind. With the passive voice, the writer usually expresses fear of not being taken seriously, it is the voice of little boys wearing shoepolish mustaches and little girls clumping around in Mommy’s high heels. With adverbs, the writer usually tells us he or she is afraid he/she isn’t expressing himself/herself clearly, that he or she is not getting the point or the picture across.

“Consider the sentence. He closed the door firmly. It’s by [p. 124] no means a terrible sentence…but ask yourself if firmly really has to be there.

. . .

“I believe the road to hell is paved with adverbs, and I will shout it from the rooftops. To put it another way, they’re like dandelions. If you have one on your lawn, it looks pretty and unique. If you fail to root it out, however, you find five the next day . . . fifty the day after that . . . and then, my brothers and sisters, your lawn is totally, completely, and profligately covered with dandelions. By then you see them for the weeds they really are, but by then it’s–GASP!!–too late.

. . .

“Just to make sure we all know what we’re talking about, examine these three sentences:

‘Put it down! she shouted.

‘Give it back,’ he pleaded, ‘it’s mine.’ 

‘Don’t be such a fool, Jekyll,’ Utterson said.

“In these sentences, shouted, pleaded, and said are verbs of dialogue attribution. Now look at these dubious revisions: [p. 125]

‘Put it down! she shouted menacingly.’

‘Give it back,’ he pleaded abjectly, ‘it’s mine.’ 

‘Don’t be such a fool, Jekyll,’ Utterson said contemptuously.’

. . .

“Such dialogue attributions are sometimes known as ‘Swifties,’ after Tom Swift, the brave inventor-hero in a series of boys’ adventure novels… ‘Do your worst!’ Tom cried bravely and ‘My father helped with the equations,’ Tom said modestly.’

. . .

“Some writers try to evade the noo-adverb rule by shooting the attribution verb full of seroids. The result is familiar to any reader of pulp fiction or paperback originals:

‘Put down the gun, Utterson!’ Jekyll grated.

‘Never stop kissing me!’ Shayna gasped.

‘You damned tease!’ Bill jerked out.’ [p. 126]

“Don’t do these things. Please  oh please.”

. . .

“I’m convinced that fear is at the root of most bad writing.

.  . .

“Dumbo got airborne with the help of a magic feather; you may feel the urge to grasp a passive verb or one of those nasty adverbs for the same reason. Just remember that Dumbo didn’t need the feather; the magic was in him. [p. 127

. . .

“Good writing is often about letting go of fear and affectation.” – Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, pgs. 122-128.

Stephen King is a prolific writer, and he is anything but timid. I do believe that his favorite word is “fart.” See my previous post that recounts his story about the babysitter Eula who was prone to farting on his head. Herehttp://jackikellum.com/?s=Stephen+King+Eula After sharing a poorly written Shayna line, King said the following: “Oh, man–who farted, right?” Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, p. 123.

When I wrote the Eula-Beulah post, I said that I personally am a bit of a prude, and I wouldn’t typically use the word “fart” in writing. I admitted, however, that King made his point, and I believe that the same is true in the advice offered above. Stephen King he tells us to do what Dumbo did. He tells us to stop quiggling and mugglilng and to Just Jump. We don’t need the magic feathers that we seem to feel naked without. We simply need to Jump.

©Jacki Kellum September 22, 2016

Jump

Stephen King Talks about Intuition – On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

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In his book Stephen King On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, King said that he believes “…that stories are found things, like fossils in the ground….” He added:

“Stories are relics, part of an undiscovered pre-existing word. The writer’s job is to…get as much of each one out of the ground [p. 163] intact as possible.

….

“Plot is, I think, the good writer’s last resort and the dullard’s first choice. The story which results from it is apt to feel artificial and labored.

“I lean more heavily on intuition, and have been able to do that because my books tend to be based on situation rather than story.

“I want to put a group of characters (perhaps a pair; perhaps even just one_in some sort of predicament and then watch them try to work themselves free. My job isn’t to help them work their way free, or manipulate them to safety..but to watch what happens and then write it down.

“The situation comes first. The characters–always flat and unfeatured, to begin with–come next. … I have never demanded of a set [p. 164] of characters that they do things my way. On the contrary, I want them to do things their way. In some instances, the outcome is what I visualized. In most, however, it is something I never expected.” King, Stephen. On Writing: A Memoir of Craft, pgs. 163-65.

 

Stephen King On Writing – Character Study of Eulah-Beulah – and Anne Lamott on Writing

“There was a stream of babysitters during our Wisconsin period…..The only one I remember with any clarity is Eula, or maybe it was Beulah. She was a teenager, and she was as big as a house, and she laughed a lot. Eula-Beulah had a wonderful sense of humor, even at four I could recognize that, but it was a dangerous sense of humor–there seemed to be a potential thunderclap hidden inside each hand-patting, butt-rocking, head-tossing outburst of glee….

“Eula-Beulah would be on the phone, laughing with someone, and beckon me over. She would hug me, tickle me, get me laughing, and then, still laughing, go upside my head hard enough to knock me down. Then she would tickle me with her bare feet until we were both laughing again.

“Eulah-Beulah was prone to farts–the kind that are both loud and smelly. Sometimes when she was so afflicted, she would throw me on the couch, drop her wool-skirted butt on my face, and let loose. ‘Pow!’ she’d cry in high glee. It was like being buried in marshgas fireworks. I remember the dark, the sense that I was suffocating, and I remember laughing.  Because, while what was happening was sort of horrible, it was also sort of funny. In many ways, Eula-Beulah prepared me for literary criticism. After having a two-hundred-pound babysitter fart on your face and yell Pow! The Village Voice holds few terrors.” King, Stephen, On Writing, pgs. 19-21

Yesterday, I read Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, and I have been reeling from the re-realization of why I don’t read books that successful writers have written. Today, I have been moping around–feeling that I could never be as witty and as perfectly on-target as Anne Lamott’s writing is. This morning, I saw the topic for today’s WordPress Daily Prompt, but I was simply numb–“Radical”–I had nothing to say that was radical.

But Anne Lamott had blinded me with some radically real  reasons not to write, and that has been my focus until now:.

“And then I tell my students that the odds of their getting published and of it bringing them financial security, peace of mind, and even joy are probably not that great. Ruin, hysteria, ugly tics, ugly financial problems, maybe, but probably not peace of mind. I tell them that I think they ought to write anyway. But I try to make sure they understand that writing, and even getting good at it, and having books and stories and articles published, will not open the doors that most of them hope for. It will not make them well. It will not give the feeling that the world has finally validated their parking tickets, that they have in fact finally arrived. My writer friends, and they are legion, do not go around beaming with quiet feelings of contentment. Most of them go around with haunted, abused, surprised looks on their faces, like lab dogs on whom very personal deodorant sprays have been tested.  Lamott, Anne. Bird by Bird pgs. xxix-xxx.

Today, I stumbled through my morning Story Hour, and I came home and tried to write again. I still had nothing to say. So I simply took a nap. When I awoke, I was  thinking about the first time that I tasted a cream cheese croissant, and I had to acknowledge that this was a radical thought. The occasion had occurred over thirty years ago, and I have really not thought about the event since that time.

My first cream cheese croissant was hot, and the cream cheese was oozy, and the crust was flaky, and the first bite sizzled on my tongue. It was like a drop of dew on a hot, parched pavement. Although it sounds cliché, the crust and the cheese melted in my mouth, and afterward, the nectar dripped down my throat. That simple cheese croissant had changed my perspective on desserts, and I love desserts. That was a radical experience.

I had grown up in rural America, where chocolate cake and pumpkin pie were about as rich as the sweets ever got.  But when I was about ten-years-old, however, my family went to a town that was forty miles away, and we bought a big bag of fresh doughnuts–one of every flavor and  many of several flavors. That experience raised my bar, where treats were concerned. But when I ate my first cheese croissant, the bar was lifted even higher.

The croissants that I buy now are no match for the ones that my friend and I bought in Jackson, Mississippi. The ones that I buy now are a little too much like Little Debbie cakes. There is something fake and unflaky and stiff and cold and slimy about them; and now that I have tasted the real thing, I know how to judge what is good and what is just a wannabe.

After my nap and my visions of cream cheese croissants, I felt slightly renewed. Maybe I would read ONE more book that was written by a famous writer. I picked up Stephen King’s On Writing, and a couple of pages into the text, I read about Eulah-Beulah. Now, that was a radical read for me. You have to understand that I am 66-years-old, and I grew up in the Deep South. I don’t say the word “f-a-r-t,” and if children in my school room said “b-u-t-t,” I made them miss recess. But I had to admit that there was something real about the way that King had described Eulah-Beulah. I decided that I needed to make a notation of Stephen King’s excellent character study of his babysitter, and I began to type the text into a blog post. When my Grammarly Spell Check questioned whether the word “farts” was really supposed to be “parts,” I laughed until my sides hurt.

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Clearly, Grammarly and I need to get a life–or perhaps we simply needed to have something radical happen–something fresh that would change the ways that we have been taught to see. I remembered that Anne Lamott DID say a few good things about writing, too. I timidly opened Anne Lamott’s book Bird by Bird, and like the Phoenix, rising from her ashes, I sprang upward and scrawled this post–bird  by bird.

©Jacki Kellum September 13, 2016

I’m ready for another day.

Radical

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