Thursday, December 02, 2004

To th gr at alphab t soup in th sky

I've reached a writing milestone this weekend. Not a page number or a word count--not anything created, but rather something destroyed.

The painted "E" on my laptop is obliterated, leaving only a clean black square where the English language's most popular letter resided for fourteen months under my tapping fingers. What was once a QWERTY keyboard is now a QW RTY keyboard.

Other endangered letters: N, M, D, and eventually R. Why not A, S, or T, you wonder, remembering those favorites of Hangman players and Wheel of Fortune contestants? IWhen I hit the S, my ring finger is short enough that its pad hits the key rather than the nail.

Anyway, it reminded me of Misery by Stephen King. The protagonist, novelist Paul Sheldon, is trapped in the home of one of his psychotic fans, Annie Wilkes, who coerces him into resurrecting the heroine of a series beloved by readers and despised by Paul himself. Throughout the novel, various keys fall off the decrepit typewriter she bought him, which means that he has to fill in the missing letters by hand on the manuscript. We know he's hit rock bottom when the E key falls off (the fact that his left foot had been axed off was another clue).

Misery, along with being a great character study and a riveting drama, is an outstanding illustration of the redemptive power of writing. Paul has no hope of survival, his consciousness alternates between agony and oblivion, but he has his work. The power of his creativity and the response it evokes in his reader ultimately saves both his physical and emotional life.

So that's my writing book recommendation of the week (yeah, like there's going to be one a week). Stephen King is so underrated it makes me want to--well, that's a post for another day.


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Jeri Smith-Ready

Jeri Smith-Ready is a Maryland author of books for teens and adults.

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