No short story this week., but that doesn’t mean I’ve given up on writing them. Lately I’ve been doing more reading than writing, because that’s the flip side of the coin. I can’t become a better writer unless I read more. So just a brief note, here’s what I’m reading currently.
Stephen King On Writing. A friend recommended this book after I told him I was reading books I writing, in the hopes of gaining new insights into the craft. I’ve finished Stein on Writing by Sol Stein and Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. Both are great books. Stein focuses on the craft of writing and its good reference to have hanging around. Lamott’s book gives me the permission to write shitty first drafts and to be entirely neurotic over my writing if I want to be — at least when I read her book, I had from time to time experienced everything she talked about dealing with the psychology of other people reading and critiquing your work. The first half of King’s book are autobiographical anecdotes about his life and the road he traveled to become a bestselling novelist. I’ve started on the second half of his book which are his thoughts on the craft itself. Believe it or not, I’ve actually never read a King novel. I’m not a big fan of horror so it never struck my fancy.
Starting Point 1979-1996. You wouldn’t really guess that this was a book on Hayao Miyazaki by the title alone, but it’s a 500 page book of interviews, lecture transcriptions, and articles about the man and his animated works. Since I’m a huge fan of Ghibli films, it’s a treat to see how he created all those movies and what his thinking was behind them. He shares a lot of his wisdom on our relationship to nature, animation, and the creative process. He tells stories from his days at Toei Animation up to Princess Mononoke and I feel that I’ve gained some further insight as to how I should be acting as a professional. This book would also fall under that category of “reading books about writing” or at least about the creative process. What I found most interesting about the Ghibli process was that Miyazaki doesn’t start with a fleshed out script. He has these things called continuity sketches, which I guess are storyboards, and he goes with the flow from scene to scene, and then hopefully by the end he’s got a plot of some kind.
Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind. It’s a comic book, but I actually think comics are legitimate forms of literature, especially Japanese ones, since they don’t have the preconceptions of what comics are supposed to be. Their entire culture is saturated with comics, and sure, most of it “read it on the john” stuff, but once in a while a few gems stand out. Akira is one of them. Ghost in the Shell is another. Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind is my favorite. This Tolkienesque story is the brainchild of Hayao Miyazaki. He wrote the comic before his studio, Ghibli, animated the movie back in 1984. On that note, you should watch the movie. Really, any Ghibli movie. I can recommend many of them for you.
Les Miserables. I’m slogging through this one. It’s 1460 pages for Christ-sake, but I’m more than midway through. So far my only impression is that Victor Hugo is a long-winded gasbag. I get he loves Paris so much he would marry it. It’s a long meandering tale with entire 60 page sections of the novel devoted to specific points of French history or places in Paris. The actual story bits are fun to read. The history lessons, not so much.
So that’s it, that’s what I’m doing to help my writing along. I’m in that reading mood and I may spend more time this month just picking up books and absorbing them to put new ideas in my head before I start writing new stories.