Friday, September 21, 2012

The Territories

Fret not thyself because of evildoers.
Neither be thou envious against the workers of inequity.
For they shall soon be cut down like the grass
and wither as the green herb.
Trust in the Lord and do good;
so shalt thou dwell in the territories

I hope the biblical turn at the top of the page didn't frighten anyone away. It's not quite what you think. Today is Stephen King's birthday, and I thought I would talk about the Territories.

I came across this verse in The Talisman, written by Stephen King (the master) and Peter Straub. (The Talisman, not the bible verse.) In it, a boy named Jack has the ability to flip back and forth between our world and a world that he thinks of as the Daydreams, referred to as the Territories by others. It's a simpler place, a more magical place. In the Territories, you can smell a radish pulled out of the ground a half mile away. Things taste better, smell better, and magic, rather than science, runs the world. While on his grand quest to get the Talisman and save not only his mother, but her Twin in the Territories, our boy gets caught on the road and is sent to a boy's home run by a corrupt and crazy preacher man. When the evil preacher uses the above in a sermon, Jack's heart leaps in his chest. To him, it's a sign of the The Territories bleeding into our world, the words are almost a verbal talisman that keep him going.

I was obsessed with this book. I think I read it almost every day for a good three or four months. It was during a dark time in my life, and I was writing a dark and horrible book of my own. I wished I could slip through the words of the book and into the Daydreams myself. That's when I somehow jumbled up the idea of The Territories and the place you go in your head when you write. It felt like if you can just get there, where the air is purer and hums with magic, everything will fall into place.

When the book begins, Jack is out of practice, and has to use 'magic juice' (really cheap, nasty-tasting wine) to flip over. The more often he 'flips', the easier it gets, until he doesn't need the magic juice at all. Going to that magic place in my head is sort of like that. The more I write, the more I live in my own pretend place, the easier it gets to go there whenever I want. 

Bringing this all back to the verse, I see it as a fancy way of saying don't let the haters get you down. Sometimes a writer's own worst enemy is within themselves; or the part of themselves that's been planted with other people's doubts or small-mindedness. You may interpret "Trust in the Lord" however you wish. I don't think I interpret it quite the way my Grandmother did, but I don't entirely dismiss the idea. The "do good" can be both spiritual goodness (or not being such a dark-hearted evil bitch, as I am prone to be) and "work" goodness, such as keeping a schedule or having a daily goal, meeting deadlines, etc. Basically, the point of it all is to "Dwell in the Territories" - a magical phrase. You can't stay there all the time, of course, but you shouldn't let yourself get out of practice. Needing too much of the "magic juice" gets writers into enough trouble as it is. I'd be happy just being able to "flip" when I needed to.

And that is my sermon for the day.

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