Abstraction, distraction and detraction

A few weeks ago I read Stephen King’s book on writing called, um, ‘On Writing’. If you haven’t read it, and you have any kind of literary aspirations, I thoroughly recommend you give it a go. Even if you don’t, as a biography of a successful writer’s career, and as an insight into how he does what he does, it’s well worth looking into.

I’d never read any Stephen King novels before reading that one, mainly because my entire understanding of his work until now consisted of just three pieces of information.

  1. He writes horror (which I’m not into).
  2. His stories often make surprisingly good movies – Shawshank Redemption, Stand By Me, The Shining, etc.
  3. His books have the word ‘fuck’ in them (a fact gleefully revealed to me by a friend at school when I was twelve).

But on the strength of reading the awesome On Writing I decided to give some of his work a go.

reading the king

The old me would me would have felt the need to start at the beginning, with Carrie, because reading people’s work in the order it was published somehow used to seem so important. The new me, who read all The Watch novels by Terry Pratchett first before going back and starting on the rest (and is very happy he did so) decided to start at the very top with what many consider to be his finest work; the 1421 page, complete and unabridged version of ‘The Stand‘.

I bought an old copy from Amazon for 1p, plus £2:80 postage and packing* (I was interested in seeing what it was like, but not that interested), and so far – 444 pages in – I’m enjoying it. Unsurprisingly, considering the length, it rambles a little, and there are an awful lot of characters to keep track of, but it’s well written, the idea’s really interesting, and I’m looking forward to seeing how it will play out.

* The old library copy I’d bought had an anti-theft sticker inside the front cover, a fact which caused me merry hell when I went shopping the other day – with alarms going off all the time, many a suspicious look and one apologetic bag search – until I finally figured out what was going on and ripped it out, taking part of the front cover with it.

For those of you that don’t know, the basic storyline (in a nutshell) concerns a genetically engineered super flu virus that escapes the lab and kills about 97% of the world’s population, and what the remaining 3% do afterwards to survive. It’s an interesting proposition which brings me, in a very roundabout way, to the actual point of this post.

I just read a chapter on the wave of natural selection that would happen if just such a disaster did occur. After the disease had done it’s thing some people, unused to and unprepared for a world without safety and technology, would die off pretty quickly from their own greed, ignorance or stupidity. We are told about a bunch of different people, and the tragic/stupid ways in which they meet their demise, and that made me wonder about the so called ‘sanctity of life’. We’re often told that all life is precious, that dying is bad and everyone is important. But is it true?

There are 7 billion people in the world; 7 billion! Let’s assume that most of them are either making the world a better place, or at the very least not actively trying to mess things up for the rest of us. Statistically speaking, there must be at least some people who are actually making the world a worse place to be. Even if it was just one tenth of one percent, that’s still 7 million people we’d be better off without. That’s a lot. I mean, that’s 7 million deaths that could make the world a better place. Faced with an idea like that it brings the whole sanctity of life thing into question don’t you think? It does for me anyway.

reading in the garden

That was where my mind wandered to on this sunny Saturday morn (NB: I feel ok in having thoughts like this because I’m not actually proposing we go out and start killing people!), when my mobile phone went *ding ding* and I got an e-mail. Train of thought ended. Something new had come along to distract my brain, abstract my thought pattern, and detract from my creative mental ramblings. And that’s what this post is really about.

We’ve made distracting ourselves into a full time thing, so much so that the distractions themselves fight for our attention. Message alerts and notifications want us to stop our lives and take notice of what our friends are getting up to on Facebook or Instagram, and we let them. No wonder we have short attention spans.

But we do it to ourselves too. Whilst I was writing this I heard my friend get up and go in the kitchen. She’s been away for a week and got back late last night, after I’d gone to bed. I felt a compunction to go say hello, see how she was, see how her trip went, and it actually took some effort on my part to stay focused on what I was doing so that it might actually get it finished.

I don’t know if we’d be better off if there were less people in the world, but I do know we’d be better off spiritually speaking if we turned our phones and our brains off once in a while and just stayed in one place – both physically and mentally – and did just one thing at a time. I suspect we’d be a lot happier, and we’d make more of this life that we’re all so keen on preserving.

Cough and Drop

There’s nothing highlights your singledom like being ill. As you lie there coughing and sneezing you realise there’s no one there to help you out, provide sympathy, pop to the shops for more lemon and ginger. It’s just you, the TV, and a big pile of snotty tissues.

Couldn’t sleep at all last night. I was so unbelievably hot. Yet every time I moved I got cold chills. A bit better today but not 100%. Not sure if I’m going to go to work tomorrow. Guess I’ll just see how I feel in the morning.

What really annoys me the most is the stuff I’d planned to do. Go to the cinema, go to the park, type up my script re-writes. Can’t do any of those because I’m stuck indoors, and staring at a computer screen hurts my eyes. And I feel too crappy to do any yoga today, which ends my do-some-every-day-since-the-start-of-November streak. Then again there’s no point punishing yourself to keep a streak going. It’s just yoga after all.

But it’s the not having anyone there thing that really stands out. It’s bad enough always having to find people to go to gigs with, but this is when being single really sucks. I need to do something about that (once I’m feeling better that is).

Report 1 – 2010: A Space Oddity

Well, my illustrious start was cut short rather rapidly by a very nasty case of the flu (and proper flu, not man-flu, I looked it up). I have been laid up since Monday (the 4th) all sick and achey and feeling like crap, and haven’t done a thing except basic life maintenance, like dashing through the snow for fresh stocks of honey, lemon and ginger, all week. Thank God I got my bit of cooking out the way early!

But it means I haven’t been able to do anything else. No writing, no meditating, no nothing; just cough, sweat, and feel sorry for myself. And what really gets my goat is I was doing so well too! I was going to make this the year I meditated every day. Now I can’t sit for 2 minutes without coughing. But! it is an excellent opportunity to practice my non-attachment (non-attachment to the idea of meditating) so it’s not a complete loss. Never miss a chance to practice eh?

So, to sum up…

Recipes done: Pizza dough and Basic Tomato Sauce

New Thing done: Catch the flu and get sick as a dog

Pages done: None (I’ll have to try and rectify this a bit next week).

Not a complete bust, just not the start to the year I was looking for. Let’s see how next week goes. TTFN.