On Writing. A Memoir of the Craft, de Stephen King

On Writing. A Memoir of the Craft, de Stephen King, Pocket Books, 2002

Genul horror (indiferent de forma pe care o ia acesta: cărți sau film), poveștile de groază, sângele împroșcat pe pereți, morțile violente descrise cu lux de amănunte și scenele cu potențial să-mi bântuie nopțile nu sunt printre preferatele mele. Bănuind că în această categorie se înscriu și romanele lui Stephen King, am tot evitat să le citesc, deși recunosc că m-a tot ros curiozitatea. De altfel, cred că undeva, în mintea mea, luasem hotărârea să încerc un roman sau două, doar ca să mă edific și să nu resping în necunoștință de cauză. Ei bine, dacă mai aveam nevoie de vreun imbold, acesta a venit sub forma cărții de față.

În prima parte a acestei confesiuni dublate de considerații despre arta sa, Stephen King vorbește despre copilăria și familia lui, despre primele încercări de a scrie și primele eșecuri, despre primele povești vândute și greutățile financiare cu care s-a confruntat înainte de a avea succes, despre romanul cu care a dat lovitura și sursele sale de inspirație, despre demonii interiori cu care s-a luptat (alcoolul și drogurile) și despre oamenii care i-au fost aproape. Povestește toate aceste lucruri personale cu sinceritate și umor, schițând în același timp și un tablou al societății americane de atunci.

When I got the rejection slip from AHMM, I pounded a nail into the wall above the Webcor, wrote “Happy Stamps” on the rejection slip, and poked it onto the nail. Then I sat on my bed and listened to Fats sing “I’m Ready.” I felt pretty good, actually. When you’re still too young to shave, optimism is a perfectly legitimate response to failure.

During the summer of 1969 I got a work-study job in the University of Maine library. That was a season both fair and foul. In Vietnam, Nixon was executing his plan to end the war, which seemed to consist of bombing most of Southeast Asia into Kibbles ’n Bits. “Meet the new boss,” The Who sang, “same as the old boss.” Eugene McCarthy was concentrating on his poetry, and happy hippies wore bell-bottom pants and tee-shirts that said things like KILLING FOR PEACE IS LIKE FUCKING FOR CHASTITY. I had a great set of muttonchop side-burns. Creedence Clearwater Revival was singing “Green River”—barefoot girls, dancing in the moonlight—and Kenny Rogers was still with The First Edition. Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy were dead, but Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Bob “The Bear” Hite, Jimi Hendrix, Cass Elliot, John Lennon, and Elvis Presley were still alive and making music.

I don’t want to speak too disparagingly of my generation (actually I do, we had a chance to change the world and opted for the Home Shopping Network instead), but there was a view among the student writers I knew at that time that good writing came spontaneously, in an uprush of feeling that had to be caught at once; when you were building that all-important stairway to heaven, you couldn’t just stand around with your hammer in your hand. Ars poetica in 1969 was perhaps best expressed by a Donovan Leitch song that went, “First there is a mountain / Then there is no mountain / Then there is.” Would-be poets were living in a dewy Tolkien-tinged world, catching poems out of the ether.

stephen_kingDupă această introducere, fără a avea pretenția că deține vreun secret absolut sau că stilul său este impecabil, Stephen King abordează subiectul scrisului, dând exemple, explicații și sfaturi, totul cu umor și cu franchețe. Câteva dintre recomandările sale sunt: evitarea diatezei pasive și a adverbelor inutile, folosirea unui vocabular simplu, fără cuvinte complicate căutate înadins, împărțirea textului în paragrafe naturale, în ton cu acțiunea cărții, și așa mai departe. Redau câteva dintre ideile pe care le-am marcat:

Let’s get one thing clear right now, shall we? There is no Idea Dump, no Story Central, no Island of the Buried Bestsellers; good story ideas seem to come quite literally from nowhere, sailing at you right out of the empty sky: two previously unrelated ideas come together and make something new under the sun. Your job isn’t to find these ideas but to recognize them when they show up.

Writing is a lonely job. Having someone who believes in you makes a lot of difference. They don’t have to make speeches. Just believing is usually enough.

…put your desk in the corner, and every time you sit down there to write, remind yourself why it isn’t in the middle of the room. Life isn’t a support-system for art. It’s the other way around.

…books are a uniquely portable magic. I usually listen to one in the car (always unabridged; I think abridged audio books are the pits), and carry another wherever I go. You just never know when you’ll want an escape hatch: mile-long lines at tollbooth plazas, the fifteen minutes you have to spend in the hall of some boring college building waiting for your advisor (…) to come out so you can get his signature on a drop-card, airport boarding lounges, laundromats on rainy afternoons, and the absolute worst, which is the doctor’s office when the guy is running late and you have to wait half an hour in order to have something sensitive mauled. At such times I find a book vital. If I have to spend time in purgatory before going to one place or the other, I guess I’ll be all right as long as there’s a lending library (if there is it’s probably stocked with nothing but novels by Danielle Steel and Chicken Soup books, ha-ha, joke’s on you, Steve). So I read where I can, but I have a favorite place and probably you do, too—a place where the light is good and the vibe is usually strong. For me it’s the blue chair in my study. For you it might be the couch on the sunporch, the rocker in the kitchen, or maybe it’s propped up in your bed—reading in bed can be heaven, assuming you can get just the right amount of light on the page and aren’t prone to spilling your coffee or cognac on the sheets.

You can approach the act of writing with nervousness, excitement, hopefulness, or even despair—the sense that you can never completely put on the page what’s in your mind and heart. You can come to the act with your fists clenched and your eyes narrowed, ready to kick ass and take down names. You can come to it because you want a girl to marry you or because you want to change the world. Come to it any way but lightly. Let me say it again: you must not come lightly to the blank page. I’m not asking you to come reverently or unquestioningly; I’m not asking you to be politically correct or cast aside your sense of humor (please God you have one). This isn’t a popularity contest, it’s not the moral Olympics, and it’s not church. But it’s writing, damn it, not washing the car or putting on eyeliner. If you can take it seriously, we can do business. If you can’t or won’t, it’s time for you to close the book and do something else. Wash the car, maybe.

One of the really bad things you can do to your writing is to dress up the vocabulary, looking for long words because you’re maybe a little bit ashamed of your short ones. This is like dressing up a household pet in evening clothes. The pet is embarrassed and the person who committed this act of premeditated cuteness should be even more embarrassed. Make yourself a solemn promise right now that you’ll never use “emolument” when you mean “tip” and you’ll never say John stopped long enough to perform an act of excretion when you mean John stopped long enough to take a shit. If you believe “take a shit” would be considered offensive or inappropriate by your audience, feel free to say John stopped long enough to move his bowels (or perhaps John stopped long enough to “push” ). I’m not trying to get you to talk dirty, only plain and direct. Remember that the basic rule of vocabulary is use the first word that comes to your mind, if it is appropriate and colorful. If you hesitate and cogitate, you will come up with another word—of course you will, there’s always another word—but it probably won’t be as good as your first one, or as close to what you really mean.

I have my own dislikes—I believe that anyone using the phrase “That’s so cool” should have to stand in the corner and that those using the far more odious phrases “at this point in time” and “at the end of the day” should be sent to bed without supper (or writing-paper, for that matter).

The object of fiction isn’t grammatical correctness but to make the reader welcome and then tell a story . . . to make him/her forget, whenever possible, that he/she is reading a story at all.

Is there any rationale for building entire mansions of words? I think there is, and that the readers of Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind and Charles Dickens’s Bleak House understand it: sometimes even a monster is no monster. Sometimes it’s beautiful and we fall in love with all that story, more than any film or TV program could ever hope to provide. Even after a thousand pages we don’t want to leave the world the writer has made for us, or the make-believe people who live there. You wouldn’t leave after two thousand pages, if there were two thousand. The Rings trilogy of J. R. R. Tolkien is a perfect example of this. A thousand pages of hobbits hasn’t been enough for three generations of post–World War II fantasy fans; even when you add in that clumsy, galumphing dirigible of an epilogue, The Silmarillion, it hasn’t been enough.

Despre scris. Misterul regelui. Stephen KingȘtiu că am dat multe citate, dar toate mi s-au părut relevante și, deși nici nu am terminat cartea încă, am vrut să îmi notez deja câteva impresii și fragmente. Mi se pare o lectură interesantă nu numai pentru fanii scriitorului sau ai genului, nu numai pentru cei care aspiră să devină sau sunt la începutul drumului lor ca scriitori, ci și pentru cititorii obișnuiți, așa ca mine și poate și ca voi, care au astfel ocazia să vadă ce se află în spatele cărților.

Așadar, dacă cele de mai sus v-au stârnit curiozitatea, volumul a apărut și în limba română la Nemira, anul acesta, în traducerea lui Mircea Pricăjan, cu titlul Misterul regelui. Despre scris.

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