I'm not ready to come back yet. I'm better, but not quite there.
The insurance company totaled my Explorer. I purchased a new car yesterday--a Toyota. My hand and forearm are encased in a Kelly green cast. (If I have to wear the thing, by God, I'm going to flaunt it).
My biggest remaining obstacle is the nightmares. Every time I fall asleep, I see that 18-wheeler coming at me. The medications just make it worse.
So, I found my own solution. I'm re-reading my favorite horror stories just before bedtime, hoping to crowd the semi-trucks out with vampires, ghosts and goblins.
I started with Stephen King's Salem's Lot. It took three nights for the ghoulies to do their work. I welcomed them in my dreams because I recognized them as MINE.
By the third night, I could sleep for almost three hours before waking up screaming. Last night, I did three hours twice--separated by a two-hour reading break.
That's when I began Night Shift, the 1977 short story collection by King. The book contains a couple of my favorite King short stories ("The Mangler" and "One for the Road.")
I'd long since forgotten that the introduction to the book was written by John D. MacDonald, who was a grand master of the MWA. MacDonald's Travis McGee was one of my teenage heroes.
Here's a portion of his comments in the intro:
If you want to write, you write.
The only way to learn to write is by writing...
Stephen King always wanted to write and he writes...
Because that is the way it is done.
Because there is no other way to do it. Not one other way.
Compulsive diligence is almost enough. But not quite. You have to have a taste for words. Gluttony. You have to want to roll in them. You have to read millions of them written by other people.
You read everything with grinding envy or weary contempt. You save the most contempt for the people who conceal ineptitude with long words, Germanic sentence structure, obtrusive symbols, and no sense of story, pace or character.
Then you have to start knowing yourself so well that you begin to know other people. A piece of us is in every person we can ever meet.
Okay, then. Stupendous diligence, plus word-love, plus empathy, and out of that can come, painfully, some objectivity...
Having been around twice as long as Stephen King, I have a little more objectivity about my work than he has about his.
It comes so painfully and so slowly.
You send books out into the world and it is very hard to shuck them out of the spirit. They are tangled children, trying to make their way in spite of the handicaps you have imposed on them...
Diligence, word-lust, empathy equal growing objectivity and then what?
Story. Story. Dammit, story!
Story is something happening to someone you have been led to care about.
Without author intrusion.
Author intrusion is: 'My God, Mama, look how nice I'm writing!'
Another kind of intrusion is a grotesquerie. Here is one of my favorites...'His eyes slid down the front of her dress.'
Author intrusion is a phrase so inept the reader suddenly realizes he is reading, and he backs out of the story. He is shocked out of the story.
Another author intrusion is the mini-lecture embedded in the story. This is one of my most grievous failings.
...the main thing is the story.
One is led to care.
MacDonald will be dead twenty-one years next month. I mourned his passing.