Monday, November 07, 2005

On Writing, with apologies to Steven King

How to become a writer in under 30 years….

First, be born to and grow up in a strictly religious -- not to be confused with spiritual -- family. Realise at an early age that dogma is not your bag.

In your formative, contrary teen years, move in with your father, who is stoic, traditional and authoritarian and with whom you haven’t lived since you were five years old. Realise that conservatism isn’t your gig either.

Experience a life-altering event when, at age seventeen, you move to Montreal – read: new language, alien culture and cosmetology school – with no money and few contacts, following being kicked out of your home for working two jobs. Realise that challenge is your “It” deal.

Follow up two years spent learning language, culture and freedom by moving to England for school, which requires acquisition of a third language and a complete shift in culture and food. Confirm that taking risks is great fun. Take a big one….

Return to Canada with a “souvenir;” a daughter who is born the following June. Realise you have more strength than you realised and far more than people give you credit for. Understand that your family thinks you’re crazy.

Make a choice between getting an education and incurring massive student loans and being a welfare Mom. Do hair at home to support the education and reduce the debt.

Begin dating and eventually marry a “safe” man you meet a church, a choice that ultimately proves some risks may not be worth taking. Produce two more children. After eight years, realise you are absolutely married to the wrong person but, next to writing, mothering is the best, scariest, hardest, funniest thing you’ve ever done. Confirm your niggling sensation that life is a huge roller coaster, upon which you are poised at the largest crest, in a car equipped with failing brakes and that you are an adrenaline junkie.

One night, call a good friend at 2:00 a.m. because you can’t sleep. Receive the advice that getting thoughts out of your head and on to paper will help you sleep. After several months, let the friend read your journal, at which point he pronounces you a writer. Make every effort to prove him wrong, including applying for a writing degree program, which you are entirely sure you will neither qualify for nor be accepted to. Receive acceptance three weeks later. Eat crow.

Take on any writing assignment available. Take advantage of writing assignments that are NOT available and write them anyway. Drive the letters column editor nuts with submissions. Meanwhile, write erotic literature and controversial pieces on abortion, politics and crime. Realise you love to stir up trouble. Wish to become an editorialist.

In the middle of your studies, happen onto a fabulous job, one you never imagined having, with a nationally known entertainer. Live the dream. When the dream ends, take another job with a social service agency where the truth of human nature (dark, nasty and deceitful) becomes icy clear, thanks not to the clients but to the staff. Leave in disgust. Revel in yet another transforming experience; depression.

During this time, learn all about marital law by enduring a seven-year long divorce process. Write about it and laugh at it constantly. Reconfirm to your parents, family and friends that you are indeed crazy. Take a job with a national legal organisation in revenge.

Come full circle and infuriate your frugal father, by returning to school for the fourth time, in another writing program. Plan to finally make a home in this niche.

For Steven King, whose title I stole...

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