Aug. 14, 2008

on writing*

*with apologies to Stephen King. this is about your book anyway.

Iíve never picked up a book by Stephen King Ė mainly because I was afraid to be afraid, to be haunted. But last night, I did pick up one of his books, and it couldnít have come at a better time Ė it was his writing memoir, On Writing.

And so, Mr King says to me:

ďYou approach the act of writing with nervousness, excitement, hopefulness or even despair Ė the sense that you can never completely put on the page whatís in your mind and heart. You can come to the act with your fists clenched and your eyes narrowed, ready to kick ass and take down names. You can come to it because you want a girl to marry you or because you want to change the world. Come to it any way but lightly. Let me say it again: You must not come lightly to the blank page.

ďIím not asking you to come reverently or unquestioningly; Iím not asking you to be politically correct or cast aside your sense of humor (please God you have one). This isnít a popularity contest, itís not the moral Olympics, and itís not church. But itís writing, damn it, not washing the car, or putting on eyeliner. If you can take it seriously, we can do business. If you canít or wonít, itís time for you to close the book and do something else.Ē (pages 92-93)

Lately Iíve been complaining that I havenít found enough time for my writing. To admit, since quitting smoking in February, that part of my brain that had become dependent on nicotine has become harder and harder to stimulate. Prior to that, there were nights I could churn out two to three pieces a night with a pack and a half of cigarettes. As a smoker, it was quite hard to defend that to non-smokers, who were wont to dismiss it as my efforts to romanticize my vice. As a non-smoker now, I am dismissing it similarly. No more fantasies of the Nick-Joaquin-and-his-beer-variety. While Stephen King himself admitted to alcoholism and drug abuse in his memoir, I think that served more as a sober reminder than an encouragement to do the same.

What heís pointing to me now, halfway through the book, is that itís not my lack of vice or stimulant that has caused this lull in my writing, but rather my lack of discipline. Itís not that I quit smoking, but that I oversleep until 11 on most days. The realization smashed into my face like a huge La Union wave. And then I stood up to make myself a cup of coffee.

For someone who 1) clocks in promptly for work, and 2) cleans bathrooms regularly on Mondays, the notion that I do lack discipline is rather hard to swallow, but it is true. What is worse is that Iíve conditioned myself to accept my own excuses for my failure to devote at least my early morning hours to writing Ė too tired, too sleepy. I should have sensed early on that my weird dreams in the morning are signs that there are things milling around in my head that need to be let out.

And so now, here I am. Last night, I finished finally Gaiman and Pratchettís ďGood OmensĒ, which turned out to be a hilarious read, before picking up this book.

Iím still in the middle of it, and I am looking forward to going through its pages slowly and meditatively, and of course, learning a thing or two or tons.

Thanks to Andrea for the wonderful share. <3