Yep. That’s right folks. The post that this is supposed to be, it is not.
It was supposed to be my list of all the writerly type things that I would plan my year around if I had a big wad of cash and the freedom to come and go at will. Everything from Crazy8s to Yorkton to Banff and beyond. Sprinkled with workshops on cruise ships, pitch fests and a one week writer’s retreat in Paris. While that post is under way and will show up in the weeks to come, this is not that post. Why you ask? Because the Road to Hell is Paved with Good Intentions.
I do realize that this is a variation on “The dog ate my homework.”, “My hard drive crashed.” “My husband left me.” “I broke my hand in a freak laundry room accident.” “I laughed-so-hard-at-Ricky-Gervais-hosting-the-Golden-Globes-that-I-tripped-on-the-edge-of-the-rug-and-spilled-a-glass-of-Merlot-on-my-keyboard.” You get the idea.
The phrase, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” is, according to several Internet sources, a proverb with origins in a statement by Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, who said “ “L’enfer est plein de bonnes volontés et désirs”. Which I’m not sure is the same thing at all, but then my French sucks. I read and speak at about a 4 year old level, which means I can ask for the toilet and get some food in me, but following directions can get a bit iffy.
Oh well. I decided since I feel so short of my own expectations this week in so very many ways that I may as well grab a well worn phrase to build this post around because at least then I can claim to be in the company of authors who have used the phrase to their own advantage. That list includes Samuel Johnson, Coleridge, Sir Walter Scott, Soren Kierkegaard and Karl Marx. At least it does according to Wikipedia, which as we all know, is the accurate and definitive source for all knowledge.
That last by the way people, is sarcasm, not irony. We’ll get to your irony lesson sooner or later, since pretty much every writer that has ever lived needs to refresh their understanding of the ironical. But we’ll wait until I am in a super pissy mood or I bark my shins on a particularly heinous example before I subject you to that most holy of writing rants.
Writer’s rants have a way of sticking to repeated themes. We all have our areas of special annoyance which I’m thinking must somehow map to our personality traits and writing style. I for example, am somewhat careless about punctuation and spelling as befits my freewheeling stream of conscience shtick. Further down the curve though, I have been known to quibble about capitalization, wince at participles which dangle and become irascible (your word of the week) about word usage. I’ve been known to argue at length in defense of the use of a very particular word, using completely made-up-by-me but official sounding terms like, “emotional resonance” or “cultural zeitgeist”. Hah, hah. Who said words aren’t weapons, eh? Bet I could get 99% of you to back off your word criticism if I threw one of those at ya with just the right zing of passion and whiff of condescension in my tone.
One of the world’s best known, most prolific and hugely wealthy authors, Stephen King has his own area of special annoyance – “I believe the road to hell is paved with adverbs. To put it another way, they’re like dandelions.” (Stephen King, On Writing, 2000) I just thought I’d throw that in at this point because I am a big fan of Mr. King’s on many levels. Dropping that adverb advice in at this point also serves to assuage some of my Catholic guilt over not yet saying anything particularly useful.
How the proverb applies to me this week is with reference to the slate of writing and life tasks that saw much more added this week then scratched off. The frustration of having many intentions and not following through on any was a late night sitting front of my computer with a big giant self-hate on. Sometimes I’m not very kind to myself. I said some very bad things to me. Bad things I shan’t repeat. It has been my experience that this isn’t a very helpful place for a writer to go.
Given the billions of anecdotes about the self-abuse many writers and other artists have been known to inflict upon themselves you’d think someone somewhere would have added self-care as a topic into the Creative Writing curriculum. While one appreciates that such behavior makes one much more colourful and infinitely more likely to be portrayed by Nicole Kidman or Johnny Depp in the Biopic of one’s life, I for one would be far happier with more drama on the script page, less in my day-timer.
Note to self. Don’t over promise. Don’t over schedule. Don’t let the drama of friends, family or co-workers drag you from your path and onto their gerbil wheel of despair. Get enough sleep. Walk around the block. Eat things that are green and fibrous. Suggest short novels for book club. Avoid reality TV. Create a safe place and time to write and defend it from all the King’s men. See that’s it! Problem this week is my cutlass is in the shop getting a new edge ground into it. Got a couple chips in it this past weekend hacking away at the Rom Com script.
So it is a small nutshell of advice this week
1) sharpen your sword
2) stay off gerbil wheels
3) kill the adverbs
Until we meet again, be a lot nicer to yourself than I am to me.