Toronto #19

I’ve got a confession to make: I’m in a real Stephen King mood lately. Kind of fitting as I’m now on the nineteenth Toronto post. (For those of you who are unaware, 19 is a major number in The Dark Tower series.) As I noted last week, it’s partially to do with revisiting his Tower novels, but there’s also another key reason: he’s so damn good at what he does.

Last week, I had finished re-reading Black House, a particular favourite of mine. Well, one of my many particular favourites, anyway. Afterwards, I began reading the sixth Dark Tower volume ‘Song of Susannah’. Today, I finished it before making a slight start on re-reading Hearts in Atlantis. And, once I’m done with my third Tower read, I’m itching to re-read some of my other favourites, including The Stand and IT. Huge epics to read, despite the fact that I have many other King books to check out. (Not to mention that I still need to finish off George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire. But then again, so does he, so I’m not too fussed about that.)

Throwing myself into these books has reminded me of something. Not just of how great a writer Stephen King is, but more importantly, how reading his books really made me want to become a writer, way back in high school when I read the second Dark Tower volume, ‘The Drawing of the Three’. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed reading his first volume, but it was the second volume that truly grabbed me, and in some ways changed my life, although I didn’t know it at the time.

(For more on my thoughts on how much I love these books, see here for a thought piece I did a couple of years back, the first (and currently only) post in my “Writers That Make Me Think, ‘Damn, I Wish I Could Write Like That'” series.)

Of course, that was considerably over a decade ago, and in the case of the writing department, I’ve finished fuck all. I’ve had plenty of ideas, but a lack of confidence as well as frustration has lead to a lack of actual development.

Very recently, there are two key things I’ve realized about myself. Firstly, I’m someone who prefers clear, visual results when it comes to my work. More than that, I like consistent levels of clear, visual results. I think this is one of the reasons why I went into accounting as opposed to, say, an English Literature degree, or something that could’ve helped me to focus on my creative writing.

Oh don’t get me wrong, I don’t regret going into my AAT studies. To be frank, I’m not sure I’ll ever have what it takes to make it as a writer, and even if I did, I certainly wouldn’t earn enough solely through it. At least with my AAT studies, or at least my experience in finance, I’ve got a decent day job to help me through with that if I did want to take writing more seriously.

The second, and this is going to sound ridiculous, but it’s true, is that I hate being wrong. To an extent, that’s true of all of us, but I actually physically loathe it. There’s hardly anything that I’ve hated in this world so much as being wrong. To help me cope with this problem, I’ve usually taken the easy way out by avoiding the possibility altogether. This has taken in the forms of, in chronological order:

  • Selective mutism (because seriously, how can you get a question wrong, or even ask a dumb question, if you don’t say anything at all?)
  • Putting in so much effort into learning that it becomes actually impossible to fail. Of course, that plan, ironically and unsurprisingly, inevitably failed. Which of course lead to:
  • Not making any effort whatsoever. After all, how can you fail at all if you don’t even try? (This attitude was best summed up by George Lass in the opening scene of the brilliant television series Dead Like Me, and it really does perfectly sum up how I was back then. See below a clip of both the speech and a great story about how death came into the world.)

I’ve mentioned before how, through a combination of that last attitude plus long term unemployment (although in hindsight, it really did come down to having that attitude, more than anything), I went through a bout of depression, which I won’t go into here. All I can say is that my fear of being wrong has held me back over the years, or rather, allowed me to hold myself back.

Fortunately, many things have helped with almost overcoming this problem. First, there was getting back into studying and actually passing my studies. Then, a few years later, there was getting into improvised comedy. Trust me, nothing helps you face being forced to be wrong like fucking up in front an audience that usually consists of your friends and family.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, there was deciding to move to Canada for a couple of years on my own and hoping for the best. I’ve recently realized that it’s now already just over a year since my application for a work permit was approved. It’s hard to believe that, after actually putting in the effort and taking one of the biggest steps in my life, I’m actually here, 1 year later. I think, as a result, it’s beginning to make other daunting decisions seem easier.

Take Stephen King’s non-fiction book On Writing, for example. You would’ve thought that, as an aspiring writer who was hugely inspired by the great sage and eminent author himself, that I would’ve read a book where he actually gives tips on actually writing much, much sooner. But I never did buy it, and I think I’m only just beginning to realize why.

Like I said, I hate being wrong. Reading a book by one of my heroes and having the risk of knowing that my method has been completely wrong? Hell no! No way I want to face that! Better to just ignore that book altogether and try it on my own. Or, you know, just put the writing to one side and don’t worry about it.

But rediscovering what made me want to write in the first place has proved to be too much to ignore that impulse to write anymore. And right now, I’m definitely not as afraid of finding out where I’m going wrong as I used to be. Which is why I finally purchased an eBook copy of On Writing today.

I had also planned on buying a decent journal to write down thoughts, ideas, or just the first fucking thing that comes into my head about anything. Another key thing I remember from improv was when my tutor told me that one of the problems I have, when it comes to making shit up on the spot (which is essentially what improv is) isn’t a lack of ideas, but having too many of them at once and not being able to pick one on the spot.

If I can have something to jot those down and find a way of organizing them – or simply just vomit them on the page – then it’s possible that it could really help. However, as of right now, I don’t really have that much money, so better to wait until payday before getting a journal that’s decent enough to write my thoughts in.

So that’s this week’s blog post. Not really much to do with life right now in Toronto, I know, but it did cover some of the things which lead me here, so I guess it’s kind of relevant. I’ll let you know how the writing goes in my next post.

In the meantime, I’m just going to make a film recommendation that’s been on my mind. There’s a movie from a few years back called Stuck in Love. The trailer makes it look a lot like Crazy, Stupid, Love, (which I also enjoyed,) and I’m not gonna lie, in some ways, it is a lot like that. But one thing I like about it is how it’s focused on a family of writers, with one of the characters being a big Stephen King fanboy. For fans of not just good romantic comedies but also writing and Stephen King, it’s definitely worth a watch.

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