Recently, I watched Stephen King on YouTube during an interview about his writing. Writers’ ears always perk up at the sharing of thoughts and methods, ways to balance life with writing, what makes other writers “tick,” – things of that sort. I envy Mr. King’s ability to turn his nightmares into megabucks. He has obviously found the how-to’s, and although he didn’t say it, something important came to me while watching his body language and listening to him talk.
King seems to have overcome a kind of self-consciousness which undermines the best writing. We can lose ourselves in an inspiration, we can be transported by an experience or a sight; but the moment that we become aware of it and begin to judge it, doubt the reaction, edit it, we lose the magic. At ease with himself and very forthcoming, King offered his own very simple writing prescription without seeming to be aware of it. He began to relate how he prepares himself for his writing day by describing his home environment. To paraphrase, he said something close to this, “I have a little cabin on my property, away from the house. It is reached by a path through some trees. I take something, maybe some coffee, and slowly walk toward it, relaxing. Then I sit down and take my time.” That’s where thoughts come to him. That uncomplicated place is the oracle that he associates with his flow of creativity.
Those of us who are afflicted understand. Some must have a particular type of music (Stephen King does and it’s surprisingly modern and loud). Others must have utter silence, or at least music which is soft, without distracting. I enjoy the sound of birds or ocean to embrace that primal state which allows me to express free thought. It’s just as necessary to write from this perspective in children’s stories as it is for adults. It might be described as feeling a bit like time travel originating in the right brain.
I’m writing when I’m doing anything else – listening to conversations, digging in the dirt, cooking for family and friends. EVERYTHING goes into the gumbo of story. Every memory, everything I do, seasons everything else. Since I often get “flashes” of beginnings, middles, and endings, or something I feel compelled to express, I’m rarely without pen, paper, and camera – tools which can then be translated to computer when I get to my “oracle” place. Many people and places are inspiring, and they become part of a particular tapestry once I get back home. My study/office has a necessary messiness, with favorite aphorisms taped to my workspace, stacks of research, folders of ongoing work, papers to file, photos to sort, people to call, and endless to-do lists. It changes every day, but here it is today – I tried to tidy up just a little. Not many are invited to share this space, but you reading here, are welcome.