“The most important things are the hardest things to say. They are the things you get ashamed of, because words diminish them–words shrink things that seemed limitless when they were in your head to no more than living size when they’re brought out. But it’s more than that, isn’t it? The most important things lie too close to wherever your secret heart is buried, like landmarks to a treasure your enemies would love to steal away. And you may make revelations that cost you dearly only to have people look at you in a funny way, not understanding what you’ve said at all, or why you thought it was so important that you almost cried while you were saying it. That’s the worst, I think. When the secret stays locked within not for want of a teller but for want of an understanding ear.” – Stephen King
I’ve had this quote up for a few years now on my things to think about page. I was just reminded of it last night.
I was flipping through channels last night and came across The Shawshank Redemption playing on TNT. It was at the very end, when Red is reading Andy’s letter in Buxton, so I just finished it. As you may or may not know, Shawshank is by far my most favorite movie. There’s so much dialogue in the movie that’s memorable, especially the very end of the movie. And I was wondering if the book ends the same way (I had read it a couple times but had forgotten). So I pulled out the book.
The original story is called Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, one of four stories in a book called Different Seasons. Anyway, the story does end essentially like the movie, with nearly identical language. So it made me wonder again how the story and movie differ, so I read it again.
It’s pretty amazing how they made the movie from the story. Just working in all the elements, all the different dialogue to a cohesive movie – it’s pretty amazing. And a lot of the great dialogue from the movie is verbatim King, but there’s a lot of original dialogue that’s equally memorable as well, which I find impressive.
Anyway, I liked it so much I read the next story, Apt Pupil, which was also made into a movie. It’s pretty gruesome. The quote above comes from the beginning of the third story, The Body, which was also made into the movie Stand By Me.
I love Stephen King’s writing, the little I’ve read of it. I don’t know quite what it is. He says himself in Different Seasons how he’s not a particularly literary writer. In fact, he mimics his heroes, who tend to write in what he calls a “muscular” style.
That’s exactly what I like about him. Not that he writes in a muscular style, but that he could express the idea of having a muscular writing style. The thing about King that I’ve read is that he’s a good storyteller and he has this remarkable gift of being able to put to words exactly the way an idea should be expressed. When I was reading the stories last night, throughout he’ll use a phrase or description and it’s so striking because I know exactly what he means, and I realize that it’s exactly the right way to say it. That’s the power of good writing, I think, and I react strongly to it.
There’s few writers to whom I respond with such passion. Another random one is Garrison Keillor. I’ve actually never read one of his books, although I tried to read A Prairie Home Companion a long time ago. I only read his advice column on Salon.com, Mr. Blue.
I love reading this column. Partly is a fascination with the grotesque – the people who write in invariably have screwed up problems that I find morbidly attractive to read about. But that’s not the main thing. The main thing is like King, sometimes he just will use a phrase that just hits me as being exactly the right words to use to express a thought, and that kills me. I love it.
So back to the quote at the top. I think that’s the struggle I’ve been having with this stupid thoughts page. The problem I think is twofold. One, I’m finding that I have an incredibly short attention span, so I often start entries that I never finish.
But I think there’s something more fundamental. Just, I’m not a good writer, and I struggle with finding the right words to use. Go back and read some of my entries. A hallmark of my writing style is that I’m redundant and write the same point over and over. And there’s a reason I do that. It’s just, I never feel like I’ve quite made my point. I’ve never said it the right way, so I have to keep clarifying to make certain that what I’m trying to communicate is getting across. So I’ll essentially say the exact same thing in 3 different ways.
I’m basically the anti-King. It takes me lines and lines of redundant prose to express what King can write in a short, pithy, perfect statement. And that frustrates me, which is partly why I have so much trouble writing entries nowadays. I have to keep clarifying and it tires and bores me.
And it’s not just that. Certain things, I just can’t express in words how I feel, and that’s frustrating. It’s like the quote above. I have these feelings that really impact me, but when I type them out, it’s just words, and not particularly powerful words at that.
Like, I don’t think anyone will ever understand why I like Pleasantville so much. I can explain it, but I can’t convey the feeling behind it. I dunno if that makes sense. But when I explain it, it just becomes words, just reasoning that can be argued and rejected. But somewhere inside me, it’s more than just those words. I dunno, it’s hard to explain the feeling, even if I can explain the rationale.
I guess all I’m saying is that someday I hope to become a good writer. They say that practice makes perfect but to me it seems like this page has just reinforced my redundant, incoherent, rambling tendencies. And the inability to really express what I mean I think is a big part of my reduced throughput. I dunno, I think it’s quite possible that by the time I get married, I’ll never post again.
Anyway, I have no clue why I wrote this or even what the point is, but, it has been on my mind so I guess it belongs here. Forgiveness.