Page 83 of ‘Stephen King on Writing’ is the beginning of a chapter that is titled ‘Toolbox’. The third sentence goes: ‘Fazza smoked cigars, though, not Camels.’ Stephen King’s uncle Oren smoked Camels, and Oren inherited Fazza’s toolbox when Fazza died. Both were carpenters,’ skilled craftspeople who work with timber’*, so Fazza’s toolbox becomes a metaphor for the set of tools writers must collect and own in order to effectively craft and shape their words. Each tool has its function and place. Of course, unlike the Fazza and Oren analogy no one can inherit another writer’s tools which is why, although I love Stephen King’s autobiographical book, I know I could never be Stephen King.
Once I recognised that, I was able to settle down to doing what I did best, which is not writing novels, nor is it writing horror fiction. I haven’t got the mindset for the latter, but if ever I decide on the former, it will be when I’ve built up both the skills and the courage to do so.
I joke in my about me that I have a novel that acts as a doorstop. That’s a metaphor too. The manuscript is there to remind me that I tried and I failed. But lately I’ve been remembering that I also tried baking a loaf of bread using yeast and I failed. That was four decades ago. I’ve been afraid of yeast ever since that time. But I tried again a year ago. Having cooked and baked my little fingers to the bone for decades I suddenly felt a lot more confident in my abilities. I have to tell you that that loaf of bread wasn’t too bad. Not exactly Baker’s Delight, but definitely delightful to a rank beginner. So maybe stir a little yeast into some lukewarm water to get the confidence rising and I could have another go at it. Maybe I’ll reinstate that old doorstop and see what I did wrong the first time around. I’ve certainly given it enough time and distance.
I could go demented buying up how-to books written by respected writers. As I said earlier, they’re only going to tell me how they write as themselves; they won’t tell me how to write as me. So now I will occasionally borrow them from the local library and read them for enjoyment rather than try to unlock these people’s secrets.
There was a WordPress Challenge a while ago called Stylish Imitation. The challengees were asked to imitate a writer that they admired. I chose Danny Katz whose writing style I admire above all others. Mine was a good piece, I worked hard at it and I re-worked it. And when I was done and I’d posted it I was pretty proud. When I re-read it the next day I knew it was nothing at all like Katz’s style. I didn’t really mind once I’d thought about it. I’d swap with Danny in a heartbeat but since I can’t and since I’ll never inherit his writing tools, I’ll just have to be satisfied with mine and with getting to where I want to be the hard way.