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5:22 p.m. - 2011-02-07
Birthrights and Creative Lights

One of the books I bought yesterday was Joe Hill's 'Heart Shaped Box'. Bought, started at 6:30pm and devoured in one satisfying gulp before tumbling into bed a little after midnight. With time off to pee, graze the fridge, chat with the kid, and have Mick come investigate this thing making crunchy footstep noises outside the office windows right behind me and doing it without tripping the motion sensor lights (turned out to be a hungry doe snacking on the sere stalks of my herb garden, why she didn't trip the lights I do not know), I swallowed Mr Hill's 374-page trade paperback in less than 5 hours.

I am impressed. Not at my speed. Lately I haven't chewed through books with the scary almost inhuman speed as I used to; I lay the blame on the internet for my now halting reading abilities and easily distracted attention. (What? Like I'm going to blame myself and the inordinate amount of weed I smoked from 1977-1980? Yeah right.) However, young Mr Hill's book scooped me up and swept me off into his wordy mindfuck of a ghost story just like his old man's stories used to.

Yeah, Joe Hill is Stephen King's elder son.

Today between tending to Princess (whose arthritis is paining her badder than bad right now) and doing laundry and futzing with my shaggy dead muskrat hair before going out for doggie pain meds and other sundries, I've been thinking about the serious chops it must have taken for Joe Hill to not only try to become a writer, but a horror writer.

Sure, it's easy to sniff and roll your eyes and smirk about how Lil' Joe didn't have anything to lose, of course any and every publishing house would plotz with delight to have the honor of publishing the scribblings of King progeny. But this is exactly my point.

I'm trying to wrap my mind around the unholy terror of hitching my chair up to a keyboard, opening Word, and trying to peck out a fricken ghost story when my dad is Stephen King.

See, I'm on the flipside. I had nothing to live up to. No onus, no weight of expectation, no need to meet and surpass an impossibly high bar. Pretty much if I didn't abandon, beat or pimp my kids out and pocket the dough, and managed not to acquire a cocaine addiction I was light-years ahead of my parents already.

What do ya know? There is an upside to coming from nothing.

Sure, nepotism can get you a presidency (helloooo W!) but it can also be a humongus, stifling weight.

If you dare to go into the same field as an already wildly successful parent, especially in the fine arts, it's gotta prey on you.

And Joe Hill?

Well, he's done a pretty darn good job. At least with his first book. The ending was kind of a gyp, but by then I didn't care too awfully much, the guy had given me one hella good story. More than worth the $15.00 plus tax I'd plunked down.

When I tried to discuss this odd weightiness with Mick he shook it off as simply a genetic thing. The son of two published (and damn fine) novelists was going to have a proclivity toward being facile with words himself. Dur! Tennis players beget more tennis players. Writers beget more writers. Easy peasy.

But dammit! It's not that easy. I know from staring down that blank white page myself.

It is, no doubt, the scariest, hardest, most nerving-yourself-off-the-cliff-edge thing a person can do. When I (or anyone) opens that Word program and cues up that first horrible, terrible, oh so laden with hope and possibility blank white page it requires raw courage. It's beyond Luke going into that cave on Dagobah or Indy stepping off from the Lion's Mouth with only his faith to hold him up, it's not simply a test of self, it's a plea. A plea to the universe that, oh please!, let me have something to say!

Now lade on the cosmically huge burden of being your famous father's son for doing the same fucking thing . To step out onto the path your dad has already hacked into the jungle and believing in yourself enough to not only trod on the well-worn ground but to take up a machete and forge a path of your own. And have it come out someplace worthwhile.

Christ on a cracker.

I salute you, Joe Hill. And not just because I've loved your dad since jr high school or that I used to babysit the mother of your kids (I did! Long story for another day.) or the random tip of the hat from one artisan to another, but because of your guts. The chops it took to sit down and say to yourself, "I have a story. It's MY story. Screw it if my dad has already mined this nearly to death. I have my own voice, my own tale to tell. I'm gonna write this sumbitch and to the devil with anybody who says I can't or shouldn't or that it's crap because of who knocked my mom up in a cruddy apartment in Bridgeport between shifts at the laundry and the Dunkin Donuts."

I don't take on heroes often or lightly, but you can add Joe Hill to that slim and skerce list.

In awe, ~LA

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