Journey Through The Waste Lands

Friday, August 21, 2009

Well, friends, I have decided to delve back into Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series. It's been years since I left Roland and his friends sitting by a beach at the end of Book 2, The Drawing of the Three, and it's high time I met back up with them. I fell into King's dark and wonderous imaginings in my early teens and became a firmly dedicated fan halfway through the pages of the first book I picked up. My first King experience was It, followed closely by The Tommyknockers, which I finished weeks before the made-for-TV-movie came out. The Tommyknockers was my introduction to the shock of falling in love with a novel and then seeing its watered-down and sometimes completely altered interpretation in visual form. Suffice it to say, I spent a large chunk of the movie yelling at my television set, saying things like, “What the *&%^ do you mean you thought you lost her??!! You did lose her! She’s supposed to be DEAD!” And, for the record, yes, I had seen the movie version of It previously and loved it. The only explanation I have for this is that I saw the movie before I read the book. By the time I got the opportunity to read The Stand, unabridged, mind you, I remember being on an impromptu road trip taken under duress and sporting a magnificently congestion-heavy summer cold. By the end of the first chapter I was convinced that I would be responsible for the demise of the human race. Good times.

I started reading The Dark Tower series within a year of having my mind blown by The Stand, and loved every minute of it. Unfortunately, that complicated and fickle lady, Life, got in my way and threw me some curves, causing an abandonment of this great work that I have no good excuse for. Therefore, I am now jumping back on that horse I rode in on. I have successfully re-read The Gunslinger and The Drawing of the Three and am now just about halfway through The Waste Lands, which, of course, is what I came to report on.

This leg of the gunslinger’s journey is quickly becoming my favorite thus far. The landscape is beautiful and terrible and the story is full of enough ka to quicken my breath and keep me turning the pages. The characters, as always, are living, breathing creatures that you can very nearly touch. King’s flair for the epic is wonderful to behold. And, my fellow sentients, I can confirm that this portrayal of the human spirit and the human psyche is nothing short of spot-on.

In this volume, Roland of Gilead says to his two companions, “The quickest way to learn about a new place is to know what it dreams of.” If the gunslinger is correct, then this dream, which ultimately comes from our world via Mr. King, shows our existence as a shadowy, magical place full of the yearning for truth and the unbreakable (though admittedly elastic and oft times crudely knotted) bonds of love. Of course, I am still wandering through this dream and things in Mr. King’s dreams are always apt to change. I’ll let you know if my mid-book impressions still hold true at its conclusion.

Weekly Observance

Friday, August 7, 2009


It’s been a good week, all in all, and I’m ready to start the weekend. There have been a lot of interesting things I’ve noticed and learned. Being alive in this realm is, as always, an interesting endeavor, and each thing I see or perceive is added to the collage of I. Here are this week’s findings.

1. The Power of Perception – It shouldn’t be news to anyone anymore – countless philosophers, psychologists and enlightened souls have told us this time and again, and yet, it seems that still people have no idea the power they have over their own world views. It is very simple – your life is what you believe it to be. It is up to you whether or not you enjoy being human and walking around on this plane of existence. So many tired old sayings could be quoted here – If life gives you lemons, make lemonade… Such clichés are the adages of our world. But what is truly amazing is that so few people seem to take them seriously. Why do we ask “why me?” Why are we so quick to lay blame for our troubles? There is no such thing as a bad life. There is only how you live it. It doesn’t take a saint to enjoy life when you hit some snags in the road. It only takes a shift in perspective. I have seen more miserable ‘privileged’ people than I care to think about. And I have met and known some positively sunny individuals that many would say got the wrong end of the stick. The difference was in their perception of what it was to be alive, and whether they recognized that they were alive at all. There are trials in every life, some big, some small, most of them immeasurable by any standard but the individual’s, but these do not have to make you bitter and resentful. There’s no need to ask “why is this happening to me?” It is, it will, and it has. It is life. And life is both blissful and painful, but without these extremes you couldn’t appreciate or respect either one. Next time around, if you don’t like it, stay home. But in the mean time, deal with it and be quiet. The rest of us are trying to learn something.

2. The Beauty of Being Alone – It’s good to be alone sometimes. To be alone with one’s own thoughts, when no one needs you, no one is talking, and you’re perfectly content to just be silent, existing in this moment of temporary freedom from aural, mental and physical connection to another. The feeling is incomparable. Try it some time. You may be surprised at just how much you’ve missed yourself.

3. Get Up Earlier – I am one of those snooze button people that get up at the last possible minute, but I have learned that this little habit is ruining my life. And I know why. It is very hard to have a positive outlook on your world when you’ve forced yourself to have to move ten times faster than is strictly natural as soon as you get out of bed. So I am teaching myself to get up earlier, whether I feel like it or not. By doing this, I will avoid being late, I will lower my chances of forgetting something on my way out the door, and the world will not look like such a cruel beast with all its sunlight and brash optimism. Maybe, with practice, I might start to enjoy mornings. Either way, the rest of humanity should not have to suffer just because I sabotaged my outlook before the day’s even begun.

4. The Haze Makes the Viewing Hard – No matter how hard I try to see clearly and understand my world and my existence, the viewing is never easy. There’s this haze, you see, created by my emotions and my preconceived notions. I have learned that we all have a haze, and the haze is thick. It is deceiving and tricky. I am learning to tread lightly and pause between steps, both hands out in front, in an attempt to navigate the confusion before making judgments or knee-jerk reactions. Most of the time it takes a second or third look before we can really know what we’re looking at. And even then, sometimes in the haze, things can change.

A Room of One's Own

Wednesday, August 5, 2009



Ah, the writing life. To spend hours creating spectacular prose about interesting characters with grand adventures. To sit at a coffee shop, idly drinking your café mocha and daydreaming about your next big scene. You are completely immersed in the fictional world you have created, and nothing can take you away from it.

And then there’s writing for the rest of us, for the real world. If your life is anything like mine, you’re working a full time job, carting the kids back and forth to school and band practice and soccer, trying to figure out (at 6:30 in the evening) what to make for dinner while the washing machine is going and you’re yelling and Kaylie or Carson to pick up their rooms if they want any time to play Wii! You finally get the kiddies off to bed by 9:30 (if you’re lucky… and they really should have been in bed by 9…). Okay, you’ve got an hour, maybe an hour and a half to get some writing done if you want to get enough sleep tonight. You turn on your computer and sit and stare at a blank document, waiting for the words to come. But, for some reason, the only thing you can seem to think about is that Kaylie has a doctor’s appointment tomorrow, so there goes your lunch hour. And did you call back that client? Did you mail that letter? Did you set out the meat to thaw for tomorrow night? The next thing you know, it’s 10:30 and you haven’t written a thing. You consider, in that moment, just hanging up your dreams. Life just doesn’t have room for you to be a writer.

What you need, friends and interested parties, is head space. You need to be able to shut out the mental clatter and walk into your mental writing room, that place where you are surrounded by nothing but the landscape of your current creative pursuit. Here are some tips that have helped me.


One of the biggest challenges to concentration comes in the form of what you hear. If you are a person who needs to block out the audio world around you in order to concentrate (or even if you just need something auditory to fixate on), here are some things you can do:

1. Music – Put on some head phones or crank the stereo to the preferred volume. Listen to music that puts you in the vibe of the mental landscape you’re trying to tap into. You can create a soundtrack on your mp3 player or computer that goes with your current story or scene. At the very least, choose music that fades nicely into your mental background. Unless you don’t mind constant commercial breaks and DJ chatter, I would recommend NOT tuning in your favorite radio station. Save the talk radio for those times when you’re looking for something else to talk about, not when you’re trying to form your own words.

2. White Noise – If music is too distracting or you can’t find the right kind, there’s always white noise. Turn on a fan or set your old TV set to static. This may also be a good time to start some clothes or dishes washing – you get some chores done and the appliances create a nice soothing whir for you to create by.

3. Cut Distractions – If possible, take the phone off the hook, turn off the TV (or go into a room where other family members aren’t watching TV) and let everyone know that it is writing time now, and you need to be left alone unless someone’s bleeding or something broke. Also, log off the Internet. This is no time to be checking e-mail or looking up that little factoid. If you come across some detail you need to check, write it down on a piece of paper and do your research later. Tell yourself you are writing now, nothing else. Not writing out character sheets or researching or plotting your story. There are other times for that. Not now.


Another way to get yourself in the zone, so to speak, is to be selective with what you see. Sure, you’ve got the four walls around you and the various items around your home, but you can choose certain inspirational pieces to focus on to make going from scattered to focused much easier.

1. Put up pictures or pieces of art, cut out of magazines or where ever you find them, around your writing area. If you find an image that strikes a particular chord with your story, keep it handy, either displayed in constant view in your writing area, or taped to the cover of the notebook you're working in so you can grab it whenever you need.

2. Choose a desktop that inspires you so that you’ll see it as soon as you turn on your computer.

3. Get away for awhile – If you’re blessed to have a long enough break that you can actually have a couple of hours to yourself, a change of scenery may be just what you need. Go to your favorite coffee shop, diner or a park if it’s nice outside. Take whatever inspirational elements you need (your mp3 player, that picture of the ocean, etc.) to get you in your groove.

Brain Storming

When it’s time to write, it’s time to write, but what about the rest of the time? Learn to take advantage of the little moments to brainstorm and develop what you’re working on.

1. Keep paper and working pen on hand at all times. You never know when an idea will hit you, but if you have something to write with, you’ll be ready.

2. Write down your stressors. If your head is full of your to-do list and things you’re worried about, you won’t have the ability to think creatively. You need your head space for your creative pursuits.

3. Brain storm while you:

- Exercise
- Take a walk
- Drive your morning and evening commute to work
- Do housework
- Before you go to sleep – sometimes the mind can come up with some pretty interesting material while you dream.

Whatever you do, don’t tell yourself it’s impossible, that you’re too stressed or you’re too busy. If this is important to you, it can be done. Don’t accept any other reality.