Welcome to the Misadventures of Widowhood blog!

In January of 2012 my soul mate of 42 years passed away after nearly 12 years of living with severe disabilities due to a stroke. I survived the first year after Don’s death doing what most widows do---trying to make sense of my world turned upside down. The pain and heartache of loss, my dark humor, my sweetest memories and, yes, even my pity parties are well documented in this blog.

Now that I’m a "seasoned widow" the focus of my writing has changed. I’m still a widow looking through that lens but I’m also a woman searching for contentment, friends and a voice in my restless world. Some people say I have a quirky sense of humor that shows up from time to time in this blog. Others say I make some keen observations about life and growing older. I say I just write about whatever passes through my days---the good, bad and the ugly. Comments welcome and encouraged. Let's get a dialogue going! Jean

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Stephen King and the Voices in my Head



By the time this blog entry gets published it will be Wednesday which is smack-dab in the middle of a week where nothing, absolutely nothing is written in ink on my day planner but my house cleaner is coming on Friday. That’s a bad thing if you’re struggling to find a topic to write about. If rain hadn’t been in the forecast I would be painting my outdoor, metal chairs this week. Likewise, if I wasn’t on the Trump Diet---the one where you stress-eat everything that isn’t nailed to the wall---I’d put down the Tostitos Scoops and go to a Tia-Chi class at the senior center instead of sitting at my computer. I’ve only gone to a handful of those drop-in classes so it’s safe to say I’m not highly motivated to do slow-motion exercises. I did get outside to do some weeding and I filled up two 13 gallon trash bags and I still have enough weeds out there to fill another. They’re at the top of a slight hill and I should have pulled them on Monday in case my mountain goat skills have waned and I fall and can’t get back up. That way my lawn care guy would have found me the next morning. You’ve gotta plan ahead when you’re old and living alone.

At times like this, when there is nothing going on in my life to write about, I can’t help thinking of some advice that Stephen King gave to would-be writers: “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 fond of Stephen King’s horror genre books but he’s a productive (and many would say a brilliant) writer and two of my all-time favorite movies are adaptations of his stories---The Shawshank Redemption and Stand by Me. I am, however, a huge fan of his thoughts about writing. More than once when I’ve wanted to write about something that others might view as too personal or too controversial I think about that quoted paragraph above, screw up my courage and start writing while trying not to let the voice of a friend get into my head. She once told me my writing is too personal, that I reveal too much and it made her feel uncomfortable. That was back at the beginning of second year of my widowhood and her words are one reason why I tell so few people in my off-line life about my on-line presence. I did some soul searching after she told me those things and I decided that what she said doesn’t jive with anything I’ve ever read about writing and writers. “You must not come lightly to the blank page.” Opening up, being vulnerable in memoir-style writing goes together like salt and pepper shakers. And make no mistake about it, most non-commercial blogs are memoirs in a roundabout, coming-in-through-the-back-door way.

I suppose it’s normal for people in our circle of casual friends not to want to know about the inner workings of our minds, especially if our outside image doesn’t match what’s going on inside our heads. We humans are good actors. We can walk around looking and acting perfectly normal while we’re falling apart inside and we want to scream, “Make the world stop! I can’t take it anymore!” We can go here and there like good soldier ants on a mission but inside feel lost and alone. “The mind can calculate, but the spirit yearns, and the heart knows what the heart knows.” I have no idea in what context Stephen King wrote those words but it doesn’t matter. To me, it’s a statement that explains how our minds, spirits and hearts can be in three different places all at the same time.
I don’t do well with unscheduled time---too much of it makes me feel guilty about what I’m not doing and should be. “Purging here, purging there and purging everywhere,” says all widows I’ve even known. There’s always something productive I could be doing if I could get my head out of the clouds. I did pencil in a day to paint at my easel this week and that went well, but I could still hear my mom’s voice in my head saying, get your chores done before you go outside to play! And I answered back, didn’t you see me pencil in a day to pack up stuff to take to the auction house? But her voice came back even louder: Thinking about doing something isn’t the same thing as doing it! At least I’m not delusional enough to believe the voices in my head are Stephen King-like demons and they’re telling me to kill the neighbor’s Siamese cat. ©

“I'm one of those people who doesn't really know what he thinks until he writes it down.”
― Stephen King

This blog entry is an example of me writing with no idea what I’d end up saying.




20 comments:

  1. I enjoyed Stephen King's book on writing. I don't remember much of it. I shall read it again. Or maybe flick through at random.

    Good writing is personal,comes from emotion. It can also be rubbish as mine sometimes is. But it gets it out and can always be amended and rewritten later if you want.

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    1. I read his book on writing about once a year. It's one of the best ones I've found. When I write something, I think I re-write it just about every time I read it...I make a lot of mistakes and of course, I write my share of rubbish, too. Thanks for commenting!

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  2. I seldom plan on anything, unless it's a given, like getting older. Murphy always seems to have different plans for me.
    Writing about yourself shouldn't cause problems unless you are a hooker, working out of the church basement, and cook meth in their kitchen, while plotting to kill the President and burning the local children's home. Listening to other people's advice can only warp your creativity. I love Stephen King, btw, but not "It."
    Ah, Mother's voice in our head, wouldn't you think we could have gotten that out by now?

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    1. No problem, I don't think any of those topics have ever made it to my blog. LOL Although there have been a few people who have become famous writing about being hookers (The D.C. Madam) and cooking Meth (Breaking Bad).

      Stephen King is quite an interesting person. I love reading lists of his quotes. I've read a few of his books, but not many.

      Isn't it funny how we can hear our mother's voice/sayings in our head after so many decades. That early childhood learning really sticks.

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  3. I was just chatting about Stephen King's writing last night after seeing a promo for a theatre release of "It." I had no idea they were remaking it.

    He is especially good at writing kids, their thoughts, fears, and motivations. Like you, I like his approach(es) to writing in general.

    I taught creative writing for over 25 years on the high school level (I designed the course, actually). I always recommended SK's book "On Writing" as a primer for my kids who were serious about writing.

    I think the best writing springs from personal experience. Whether it takes the form of a personal narrative or not, we writers use our authentic memories and life moments to breathe authenticity into our work. (Or sometimes, we steal someone else's, if it makes a good story!)

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    1. You have an interesting history. Do you know if any of your students ever became successful writers?

      I've tried my hand at writing fiction before I found my voice in memoir-type writing which I probably would have never discovered if my husband hadn't had his stroke. I suck at fiction because I can't plot. I wish I had a better memory to draw on though. I started to late for that, I think.

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    2. I keep in touch with many of my former creative writing students. Several have published, mostly in magazines of note, like The Sun, and one has published both books of poems and a novella. I always felt deeply and profoundly privileged to work with my young writers. They were the best part of my long career in education.

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    3. I'm sure they feel the same way about you. A good teacher can give you a love for good books/good writing that lasts a lifetime.

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  4. I enjoy having a nice slow week! I think you do too. I keep a little list on my phone if I get an idea for the blog. And on a day where I can't think of anything ... something is going on in the world that could use my comment.

    I've read a few of King's books but they just got too weird for me. But I've never read his book about writing! Now I can head over to the library. Thanks!

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    1. I keep a folder of possible blog topics on my computer, some partly written posts, but I rarely use them because their time has past.

      I think you'll like King's "On Writing." I don't know anyone who likes to write who doesn't.

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  5. I tend to embrace lazy days and never feel guilt. I use to be a 110% busy person but I think that broke when I retired. Don't miss it at all.
    Had to smile at your plan to be discovered. I wear bright colors so that I'll be easy to spot:))

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    1. I actually thought about what color I would wear when I went out to pull weeds in the back yard so I could be seen through the trees. LOL

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  6. I also have SK's book on writing. When my children's book muse up and left, is when I started my blog. I can't write adult fiction for beans, especially not love stories. So, the blog helps get that writing urge out and quelled.

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    1. I understand that completely. Same for me.

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  7. The Shawshank Redemption is one of my favourite movies- but, I didn't know Stephen King wrote the novel on which it's based. I learn so much from your blog! Plus I like reading your blog because its *genuine* ie written from the heart. When you write, you have to be willing to reveal yourself, and that requires a certain courage - which you have in bucket loads!!

    Re weeding, I like the job. You get a sense of satisfaction because you can see what you've done, and it's damn good exercise!! I know I sleep well after a day spent weeding the backyard. ~ Libby

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    1. Courage, oh my gosh, any courage I have comes from the Lion in the Wizard of Oz. LOL

      I finally got the rest of my weeds pulled. They've been so plentiful this year. My lawn care guy says everyone is having issues with them now.

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  8. Stephen King's On Writing is a go-to for me. I think it's a fabulous book. When people tell you/me/anyone they are uncomfortable with to much personal revelation, it's about them not us. Let them do the therapy they need to find out why this makes them squirm, and keep writing. My blog is very personal; I talk about all my joys and challenges as a human being. I hope by sharing myself I'm making connections with others that show them they are not alone...we are all a little nuts, a little sad, a little mad, a little happy, a little wild, a little scared, a little, well, a little of everything. So glad you write...keep it up...would love to see more of what makes Jean, well, Jean. Do not come lightly.... :)

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    1. You hit the nail on the head---we all are a little of everything and by sharing, I agree, we can make people less alone. Gosh, next time someone tells me my writing is too personal I hope I remember to tell them they need to do some therapy to find out why emotions make them squirm. Perfect!

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  9. Such an interesting post. I've never read a Stephen King book, and I didn't know he'd written a book about writing -- or maybe I did, and had forgotten. Since everyone seems to know it, maybe I should read it.

    My go-to books about writing are only two: Annie Dillard's The Writing Life, and The Habit of Being, which is a collection of Flannery O'Connor's letters. Otherwise, I've depended on a clutch of brief quotations from a few people like Faulkner, including this one: "Don't be a writer. Be writing."

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    1. I love books about writing. I'll have to check out the ones you've mentioned. "A Year of Writing Dangerously; 365 Days of Inspiration and Encouragement" is also a collection of brief quotations from writers. I reread it every so often. But King's is the best, I think.

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