“There are some things one simply does not speak about, not even among the various versions of one’s self”
Stephen King, Lisey’s Story
In an interview in 1993 Stephen King said: ‘The question which haunts and nags and won’t completely let go is this one: Who am I when I write?’ As writers we are often tortured by this question. Who are we when we write our darkest character traits or most twisted plot lines? Where does the story come from? As a writer you have to be a little more self-reflective than other people. You live in a world in your head, a world of your own making, that is only glimpsed and frustratingly rarely understood, once written and bound on paper.
For me the hardest part of writing has always been the imagined readers peering over my shoulder at what I write. A reader has the opportunity to peer into the soul of the writer, a private and often dark place. A world of our creation which we tap into for inspiration. Writer’s are very aware of this dark place and many writers feel compelled to write about the fear of who they are when they are writing, and where they fuel their imagination!
I am sure that for many writers the creative process can be a light place, a place of childhood sweethearts and happy endings. I don’t think that this is the point. The point is the creative pool we drink with abandon is a collection of our own personal experiences. This must always have a dark element, and this is what scares the writer, who is able to locate this pool and witness the most darkest parts of our soul. In Lisey’s Story the creative pool is a physical, not just imagined, portal to another world, a world of beauty and danger.
Authors like Stephen King have often portrayed fictional characters in their novels who are writers struggling with their own inner demons during the creative process; for example the inimitable Jack Torrance in the The Shining. In Stephen King’s book, Lisey’s Story, the novelist Scott Landon shares his darker side with his wife Lisey (told from her side of the story through remembrance of their married life together). Scott delves into his own creative pool of imagination which he calls the ‘Boo’ya Moon’ and we have a glimpse of Stephen King’s own tortured mind as he asks this question ‘Who am I when I write?’.
Lisey’s Story is one of my favourite King stories, with Shawshank Redemption, Apt Pupil and Stand by Me. Though the book is hard to get into at first, it is full of annoying often grating slang like ‘smucking’ but the story is also full of humour, real and lasting love after death, the tortured labour of writing and indelible images like ‘a boy burying a corpse with a toy shovel’!
I love the last sentence to Lisey’s Story, it says so much without having to say anything at all. If you have read the book the strange and fanciful tone of this last sentence is a wonderful ending…
“Lisey went downstairs. For a moment her shadow stayed, and then it was gone too. The room sighed, then it was silent.”