Robert Peck, “A Day No Pigs Will Die” loved to say that everybody should be able to write just one interesting novel using their own personal experiences. After that, according to Rob Peck, you are then totally on your own and left to your imagination. Mr. Peck’s goal, in that course I took from him at Rollins College years ago, was to teach his students how to write that one readable novel so that it would hold a reader’s attention.
“Don’t tell me, Show me.” was the Peck battle cry. “Use white space, write dialogue, and lots of it,” he would say. “Carl Sandburg might write 4 pages describing a sunset, but let’s see him top, ‘Jesus, Lord and Mary! Look at that damn Sunset Louise!’” Point taken. I can do that… I can do that! And so I try to write in the “Don’t tell me, show me.” style of my teachings.
One other person has helped me tremendously to establish a mindset that I now know will allow me to write until I can’t keep the thoughts together anymore. My dear sister is today a wonderfully accomplished artist. However, in her early days, when I would go to an opening of one her shows, most all of the paintings were marked, “Sold”
“Sissy,” I told her with my checkbook in hand, “I came here to your opening so I could purchase one of your paintings, but everything is sold. This tells me immediately that your prices are way too low.”
She smiled and nodded, then spoke those magic words that have become a mantra for my writing fiction, “Jimmy, I paint to paint,” she said. “Painting is my end, not a means to an end, and I’m so glad that somebody will pay me enough money to buy more canvass and paint, and I don’t have to lug all these paintings back home.”
Sissy was right of course. I sincerely believe that if a fiction writer can wrap him or herself up in that philosophy, it will pay off in spades. Relax, turn off the outside distractions and let your imagination take the lead. Make it fun. If you write to write, writing becomes your end, and not a means to something that may, or may not be attainable.
“The pages are still blank, but there is a miraculous feeling of the words being there, written in invisible ink and clamoring to become visible.” Vladimir Nabakov
A BOOK REVIEW
It’s hard to imagine how someone could write a “how to” book and make it as interesting and fun to read as Stephen King has. To prove my point, I am going to start all over and read it again this weekend.
What a talent and what a cool dude Stephen King has to be (he hates the word “cool,” but right now I can’t think of a better one.) Mauled early by the critics, primarily because of his genre and their jealousy, he just persevered and wrote what was fun for him to write. It has certainly paid off. Wow!
“On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft” is the absolutely best book on writing I have ever read.