Writing can be a bitch of a thing to do sometimes.
Currently I’m working on a column (I’m sure I’ll post it here soon enough so I won’t spoil the surprise), but I’m having a heck of a time with it.
It’s a good topic– interesting, relevant, and I anticipated having a bit of fun with it. The only trouble I’m having is actually writing it.
Maybe “writing” is too strong a word. “Starting” is probably better. You see, I’m a strong believer in starting strong and sucking ’em in. Within reason–of course.
For example, you can’t start out with a sensational headline like, “Killing Your Children” and then never link the headline to your topic. You can’t make a promise, and then not deliver.
That’s a no-no.
But as long as you make it work, stay on topic, and keep it moving, I say let’ er rip. The wild purple sky’s the limit. And with that sort of freedom, you can come up with some pretty good stuff. Stuff that’s fun to read and write. Stuff that resonates–leaps right off the god-damned page, grabs your reader by the throat and won’t let go.
And sometimes you have to take that life (that you created) and stick a knife in it. You won’t want too, but trust me on this–sometimes it’s better for everyone involved.
In 2000, Stephen King wrote a memoir of the craft called On Writing. In it he mentioned something I’ll never forget. As writers, sometimes we have to kill our children.
Reasons vary. Maybe it doesn’t fit. Maybe it’s taking on a life of it’s own. Maybe it’s causing problems for the piece as a whole.
It’s called “killing your children” because sometimes that’s what it feels like.
So back to the column. A couple of nights ago, I finally got started. I worked for about two hours. Tweaked, expanded, massaged. And finally ended up with something that wasn’t half bad.
Today I’m chucking it.
The lucky thing for me is that ever since I read about writers killing their children, it’s not that hard for me to do anymore because I know deep down it’s for the greater good.
So . . .wanna see what I’m killing? It’s perverted, I know, but I’ll show you.
Only in the interest of good writing, you understand–and I wouldn’t show this to just anyone.
I was shooting for an intro to a column about gift cards of all things. I’m killing it because it got way too fat. So here you go. If you’re into writer voyeurism, here’s your chance. Take a peak.
I’m not Danish myself, but I play one at Christmas because I like the rice pudding. My wife and in-laws (luckily) are Danish. This means that each year I get to take part in a tradition I like to call, “don’t swallow the slimy almond.”
Here’s how it works. First, someone hides an almond in a bowl of rice pudding. The person who finds the almond gets a Christmas gift. The fun is the gamesmanship after the first taste.
Someone will pretend to not have the almond. Others will pretend to pretend not have the almond. Others still, will pretend not to care that they are missing a football game.
Until, at last, everyone has finished.
This is great fun. Let me tell you from experience, there is nothing more exciting than wondering which Danish in-law is sucking on a slimy almond. Unless, of course, the almond happens to be inside your own mouth.
If you ever find yourself in this situation, remember one thing: Never reveal the almond’s whereabouts until you’re ready. For dramatic effect, keep it hidden until at least one of the Danes thinks there’s been some mistake. Then at the last minute, with the flare and grace of a skilled magician, spit the slobbery nut into your hand and show it off like it’s your first-born.
Then sit back and wait for the gift.
Just don’t expect much.
In the particular pack of Danish in-laws that I deal with, there is one sister that has taken it upon herself to organize this particular tradition. From the cooking of the pudding, to the hiding of the nut, to the giving of the gift, this sister has always had her fingers in it (so to speak). And (bless her heart) she has always provided the gift.
To my way of thinking, this has got to be a daunting task. Giving a good gift these days is a talent many simply do not posses. It takes a certain knowledge, skill, daring and imagination to be a good gift giver. But, imagine not knowing for sure even who will be the eventual recipient. Will it be the 8o-year-old grandfather, the 4-year-old granddaughter, or the guy who pouts because he doesn’t get to watch the end of the football game every year?
One year I got a gift card for a store called “Bed, Bath, and Beyond.” I’m not sure what sort of things they would sell at such a place, but I’m thinking maybe they have a great assortment of soaps and pillows or something like that.
Finally – – my topic! Nice to meetcha! I’d really love to read on but I have to be getting to work, or bed, or dinner, or clip my toenails.
Ugh . . . back to the drawing board.