Claudia Osmond ~ Reader, Writer, and Ruminator

Posts Tagged ‘Stephen King’

Riding the KingCoaster

In Reading on March 21, 2013 at 9:56 pm

I’m a big, yellow-bellied, lily-livered, boneless chicken. (I blame my cousin for making me watch black-and-white horror movies when I was little, while the adults visited and he had to keep me from getting bored. For the record: I was never bored. Ever.) So this is a big deal:

Tonight, for the first time ever, I stepped in line to ride the KingCoaster*, one of – if not THE – world’s most frightening rides. And I’m about to pee my pants in anticipation.

You know the sitch: That heart-pumping, sweaty-palm suspense of what’s to come; hearing the terrified, electrifying screams of those who’ve gone before you; bearing witness to the blanched yet exhilarated countenances of individuals exiting the ride. You wanna do it. You don’t wanna do it. You love the fear of the unknown. You hate the fear of the unknown. You’re intrigued by what others have said about it. You’re horrified by what others have said about it. The longer the wait, the more intense the anxiety. The closer you get to the front of the line, the more you want to slip under the metal bars into the sparsely populated fast-track lane and hoof it the other way. But you don’t. You stay in line. You wipe your palms on your cut-offs. You take deliberate, meditative (but completely ineffectual) breaths. You repeat to yourself that it won’t be as petrifying as you think it will be. And you hold your pee.

Step forward: I remember the contented ride of the Toews-Go-Round.

Step forward: And the giddy buzz of racing down Riordan River Rapids.

Step forward: The Gardner-A-Whirl was fully enjoyable from line up to landing and, although somewhat intense,

Step forward: The Tower of Collins was a thrilling plunge.

Step forward: Even experiencing  The Tunnel of Gaiman wasn’t half as distressing as what I’m feeling now.

Step forward: I’m convinced I’ve made a mistake.

But this understanding comes a second too late, at the sound of the harness being locked into place: I’ve just been downloaded into the seat. And the furtive thumbs up have been given.

There’s no turning back. The ascent has begun.

I’m now fully committed.

To be continued …


Stephen King and the Swirling Thing

In ruminating, writing on October 9, 2012 at 8:47 pm

You know how sometimes you feel something swirling just below the surface, and that something isn’t able to form itself into a real, perceptible thought until someone asks you just the right question? That happened to me the other night. Via a facebook conversation.

N.B. I don’t care what anyone says about facebook. I’ve had some pretty significant interactions on that thing.

I updated my status while under the influence of a writerly frustration haze, stating something along the lines of how books on writing tend to cloud my vision more than sharpen it. I then declared Stephen King’s ON WRITING to be the only book I’ve read thus far that has truly empowered, rather than destroyed me. Said conversation ensued. It began like many do, with people linking arms in artistic solidarity, feeling my pain, and offering encouraging alternatives. And, as expected, coffee came up as a solution at least once. For which I am grateful.

The inciting incident that turned the conversation around for me was a question. And it ran along the lines of this: I’m curious: How was King’s book so empowering? What makes it so different from the rest?

I can’t count how many times I’ve praised ON WRITING not only to fellow writers, but to anyone who will listen. “It’s such a great book!” “I read it at least once a year, it’s that good!” “Stephen King freaks me out, but his book on writing is hilarious and so inspiring!” “I love Stephen King!”

N.B. I don’t really love love Stephen King. But I do love Stephen King.

But do you know what? No one has ever asked me why. No one. Ever. And do you know what else? I didn’t really know why. Well, I did, but all this time it was just something that was swirling below the surface. Something that I’d never taken the time to identify. Something that has made everything else I’ve read since not measure up. And it isn’t because I’m a devoted, die-hard Stephen King horror fan who is infatuated with anything the man writes. Far from it. But that question now demanded that I reach in, capture, and name the swirling thing.

So this is what I named it:

I think it’s a combination of things – his humour, his insights, how he draws parallels between his experiences and his writing – but mainly his attitude. He is still just as realistic and hard-hitting about the publishing industry as the rest, but he doesn’t come across as jaded or as superior in his delivery. He’s someone who has worked his way from below ground level to the top, yet keeps firmly in his sights where he came from and credits his whole human experience as being what has made him the writer he is today. He seems to not take anything for granted and also does not speak down to the reader. Here’s a guy who has made millions and is one of the best known writers out there, yet he comes across as the guy next door: reading the book feels like you’re sitting on lawn chairs in your backyard with him, roasting marshmallows while he tells you his story instead of in a classroom where you’re sitting under fluorescent lighting and he’s standing at the front lecturing. He doesn’t try to reduce writing to a formula he’s thought up – he quite openly says he has no clue why his writing sometimes works and why sometimes it doesn’t. And because of all of this he manages to make you feel you are an author along with him, not one who’s following him and trying to catch up. And that is very empowering.*

It’s a rather long name, I agree. But it’s the last line that sums it up for me: … he manages to make you feel you are an author along with him, not one who’s following him and trying to catch up.

Isn’t that the mark of a great leader? Of someone you want to listen to? Of someone you want to learn from and spend time with? Someone who will walk with you, not in front of you. Someone who recognizes your uniqueness and works with your strengths. Someone who doesn’t lord their position over you, but lays their position firmly beneath you to support you and set you up for success.

That’s the kind of individual I want to choose as my go-to person. And that person’s voice will cut through the noise of all the others because it is the one that’s close to my ear.

Stephen King has given me a gift. A writer’s gift. And I hope I can pass a similar swirling-beneath-the-surface-type gift to someone else someday. In whichever way they need it.

 *N.B. This is why I never want to meet Stephen King in person. I’d hate to discover he’s really not the type to sit and roast marshmallows with me.

Writing Places and Spaces

In writing on February 12, 2011 at 3:32 pm

It’s true. I wrote my first book in a closet. It wasn’t a walk-in closet, it was a regular 70’s-style closet with sliding panel doors that ran along one wall in our bedroom. I cleared the floor space, inserted a small desk, jigged the wiring, hooked up the computer, and voila! Doors closed with stool pushed under the desk = closet. Doors open with stool pulled out and clothes pushed to the side = writing room. It was the only space in our small townhouse that I could find to call my own. And it worked.

But that was two houses ago. From there, we moved to a house that had been built in the 40’s (ish) and the closets were about as big as breadboxes. There wasn’t an extra room as the kids were too old to share now, so I had no choice but to become a dining table writer. Gone were the days of a wonderful space I could call my own. Gone were the inspiring quotes papering the closet wall that came into view once I slid the door open and pushed the clothes aside. Gone were the hidden stool, small Ikea desk, and stone-aged desktop computer. Gone. I was sad about it. And I started dreaming about having an office one day. A real office. Oh, if only I had an office … then I could really write. But in the meantime I’d have to make do, so I graduated to a laptop which allowed me to be more mobile, and I made it work. (Let’s just say when you’ve got only one table to work on and there are five people who need to eat around it everyday at dinner time, well, you’ve just got to be creative.)

But that was one house ago. The house we live in now has even less closet space than the previous one. (This house was built in the 1900’s) But do you know what? I don’t actually need closet space or a dining table to write on anymore. The dreams I had in our old house have come true: I actually have an office! A real live office, with a window and everything!

The problem is that I’ve never used it.

Huh, wha–?

See, when we first moved here, we had to do major renos to make the house work for the five of us (three being teenagers now) because it had been divided into two apartments. So, for the first four and a half months, we all lived in such cramped quarters on the top floors while the main level was being torn apart that my writing space became my bed. The dining table just wasn’t even an option anymore because the small second-floor kitchen we were using was already acting as our eating area/living area/husband’s office. (And before you ask, yes, I’ve tried writing in coffee shops. I’ve tried writing in libraries. I’ve tried writing at the park. But I’m far too easily distracted to get much of anything done in those places.)

So even though the main floor’s pretty much done now and we’re not all squished together in such a tight living space anymore, I just can’t seem to transition. I can’t quit migrating to my bed when I want to write. Here I am, sitting on my bed propped up on pillows, as I write this post and there’s an open space just outside my door – a whole room! – that’s waiting to be used.

Go figure.

Maybe it’s kind of like what Stephen King said in ON WRITING, you know, when he talked about how he got himself this monstrosity of a writing desk early on in his career, once he decided he was a serious writer, and put it in the centre of the room because he figured that life should now revolve around his writing: That serious writers should define themselves as such by the level of importance they put on their work space. But it didn’t take him long to slide off his pedestal and haul his desk to the corner of the room under the window as he realized that life doesn’t revolve around writing; writing is a part of life and flows from life and should fit into the everyday rhythms of life. (Well, you may have interpreted that chapter differently, but that’s how I interpreted it. And it works for me :))

Maybe that’s why so many writers enjoy writing at coffee shops and libraries and parks – not necessarily because they don’t have an office or can’t find a table to work on at home, but because they prefer to be right in the middle of the everyday rhythms of life. And I can totally see how that could be inspiring. Uh, if I could focus while being there, that is.

I’m not saying writers shouldn’t have offices, that’s just silly. And I’m not saying I’ll never use my office space. What I am saying is that if you’re a closet writer or bed writer or dining table writer or hot tub writer (hey, you never know!) and you dream of having your “own” space – a real space – can I encourage you to love the space you’re in? The space you’ve got? The space that’s right in the middle of your everyday rhythms of life? After all, it really is your space. Think about it: think of all the things you’ve written in your space, all the ideas that have come to you in your space, all the dreams you’ve dreamt in your space, all the eureka moments that have dawned on you in your space. It may not be an ideal space, and you may not write in that space forever, but chances are you’ve done some of your best writing to date in that space. What’s not to love about that?

You know, my closet worked for me (Smudge’s Mark). The dining table has served me well (Gil’s Tattoo). And I’m loving the comfort of my bed right now (revisions and secret new project). 

Call it a wasted dream, but I don’t see why I should change my space  just because I can now.