Curiosity Journal: a weekly recap of what I’ve been reading, playing and learning; what I’m reacting to and writing. Inspired by Monica of Paper Bridges, I’m occasionally recording a Curiosity Journal. Tag words are: reading, playing, learning, reacting…and writing.My husband requested time off last week for spring break, but it didn’t look good; the department wanted him on hand to manage potential issues for a project that was nearing completion. We resigned ourselves to staying home; I planned to clean off my desk and sort stacks of paper.Then, at the last minute, they said he could go!We scrambled to make arrangements to drive to the Gulf, packing up our pop-up and scouring the Internet for a campground—most were full, their sites reserved months ahead of time. Finally, we found a small campground with an opening, located in the small town of Carrabelle on “The Forgotten Coast” of Florida.This is “old Florida,” natural and undeveloped.While others were dealing with the racy Spring Break wild life of Panama City Beach, we were about 80 miles east, enjoying a different kind of wildlife.The first days in Florida were much warmer than what we left behind in Indiana, but rain set in for much of the week. I can attest that a rainy week for a family of six crammed into a pop-up camper is not ideal. Fortunately, our campground had an activity center to which the kids could retreat to play games and watch TV.We read a lot. I finished Eat, Pray, Love, as I mentioned in last week’s Curiosity Journal (which I composed in the activity center during a thunderstorm). And so I shall begin my official Curiosity Journal entries below with another book I enjoyed on this trip.Reading: Stephen King’s book On Writing has been recommended to me by at least a dozen writer-friends, so I took it along. Though I’ve never read Stephen King’s novels, I appreciated this book that was part memoir / part writing instruction manual. The language is a bit raw for my taste, but I’d been warned.I liked his simple grammar overview. I may adapt his ideas to create an introduction to grammar basics for the high school writing class I’ll be teaching next fall. He recommends Strunk & White’s The Elements of Style and a used copy of Warriner’s English Grammar and Composition as go-to references.He also advises, “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut” (King 139). He claims to be a slow reader who manages to plow through 70 or 80 books each year by carrying a book with him at all times to read while waiting in line at the post office, while exercising at the health club, and while eating meals at the dinner table. He also counts those books taken in via audio recording (unabridged books only).He points out that as we writers explore our voice, we may find ourselves adopting the style of someone we admire. “[T]here’s nothing wrong with that,” King says:
When I read Ray Bradbury as a kid, I wrote like Ray Bradbury—everything green and wondrous and seen through a lens smeared with the grease of nostalgia. When I read James M. Cain, everything I wrote came out clipped and stripped and hard-boiled… This sort of stylistic blending is a necessary part of developing one’s own style, but it doesn’t occur in a vacuum. You have to read widely, constantly refining (and redefining) your own work as you do. (King 141, 142)
He recommends that every writer work in a writing room. It can be quite humble—in his younger years, he wrote in the laundry room of a double-wide trailer—but it needs one thing: a door you are willing to shut. “The closed door is your way of telling the world and yourself that you mean business” (King 151). Playing: We took long walks along the beach following in each other’s Ministry of Silly Walks footsteps, pausing to draw pictures in the sand.Learning: Carrabelle Beach was a training ground for D-Day, a sobering reality of this area’s history. Reacting: I know this is a trite and immature response to King’s book, but I’ve been gnawing on his advice to have a writing room with a door that can close.I write from a desk in the middle of our most highly trafficked room. As I composed this blog post, for example, my son ran up and asked three questions before telling a long story; my youngest daughter practiced piano about two feet away from my chair; and after that, my second daughter stuck in a Beatles CD and cranked up the volume to enjoy “Yellow Submarine” while she worked on Algebra. It might be quieter to pack up my things and drive to a food court at the mall or set up my laptop at the nearest airport terminal.How I long for a writing room with a door that can close!My husband and I thought through each room of the house, and there simply isn’t a nook, closet or room that we can convert to writing space. So I tap away at the keyboard while “Hello, Goodbye” plays in the background. Oh, and here comes my son with another question.Writing: I discussed some of my writing ideas with my husband while we rolled up I-65 North on our way home. I hope to make progress on sample chapters and a proposal for a possible book. It feels good to have some vision and a burst of writing energy as we head into spring. Oh, did I mention that we camped near Apalachicola National Forest and Tate’s Hell State Forest, both of which are inhabited by Florida black bears?There you have it. A Curiosity Journal that reveals what I’m reading, playing, learning, reacting to and writing.