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.

* Wikipedia



8 thoughts on “Dash, Dot, dot, dash,dot dot dash: connecting the dots

  1. Obviously, I’m hanging around your blog tonight and catching up. 🙂 I like that you tried to bake bread again and had success. The analogy to yeast and raising confidence was a good one. I haven’t read any books about writing, but I’ve learned quite a bit from other bloggers. I take the things that interest me, or that I think I can use, and I ignore and/or throw out the rest. I love that there are so many styles of writing – and opinions.

    • Maddie, thanks so much. What a lovely experience it is to know that someone is actually hanging round my blog. By the way, hgow does it feel to be free from the shackles of the November deadline?
      There’s an amazing variety of bloggers and blogging themes out there.and like you I try not to limit myself to those whose blogs and opinions are similar to mine. It’s an amazing world.

      • It feels wonderful to be free of NaNo. I was going to write the book anyway, and I may have written it in a month, but that goofy NaNo pressure made me feel guilty when I didn’t write. I’m glad it’s over … And to answer the Sunday roast question, I didn’t carry on the tradition. For the first fifteen years of our marriage, my husband worked afternoons, so we would go to church on Sunday, grab a quick bite to eat, and then he was off for work. But our son loved tinkering in the kitchen, and we all liked to cook together.

      • My sons weren’t interested in cooking till they left home. Now they are great cooks, especially the vegetarian son. I wouldn’t have minded a bit of bonding in the kitchen back then, but it’s skipped a generation and I’m doing the cooking with one of my granddaughters.

  2. I like your writing style. God gifts each one of us in different ways, and that makes me happy. You probably wouldn’t want to write like anyone else anyway, because how would you be able to express yourself? Be the woman God created you to be and continue to write like Mary. 🙂 It would be nice if publishers and the world stand up and take notice, but at the end of the day, as long as you express yourself in the way that God made you, who cares what anyone else thinks? Keep writing and be blessed!

  3. I think writing is probably like painting and drawing, getting started is the first hurdle. Knowing when to stop the second, but developing a personal style is an evolution that takes a lifetime and that has no guidelines, but many influences. It’s a journey.

    • You’re probably right about the painting and drawing, S, but I can’t get past the stick figures no matter how hard I try. You’re definitely spot-on about how developing a personal style takes time. Even when you’re not stylishly imitating, rank beginners tend to unconsciously copy the style of the writers they admire. When I look back at some of my old pieces I blush.

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