It’s difficult for me to focus on Annie Wilke’s craziness. It isn’t because she’s not crazy. That, she is. Totally. Indelibly. And ever.
But the fact that Paul Sheldon is a writer always captures my attention. The thoughts I draw from reading the book or watching the movie Misery always lead back to some aspect of writing. Because I am also a writer, I find this pretty useful. And awfully entertaining.
The thoughts I had this go round weren’t borne from my re-reading, but from my watching the movie. I didn’t see the whole thing. The part where I picked it up was when Annie was explaining to Paul her frustration at the movie of her childhood where the writers of Rocket Man’s adventures wrote what she called a cheat, an easy (but unbelievable) way for him to escape from the certain death forecast in the previous installment.
Annie used the example to tell Paul that she didn’t like what he’d written as her consolation Misery story because he wrote a cheat. As soon as she called him on it, Paul knew she was right. In that one scene, it hit me: Annie Wilkes was the perfect muse. Not perfect in that she was all pretty and agreeable and came whenever her writer called her. But perfect in the sense that she was highly effective.
Paul drove off the road in the beginning of the story with a manuscript in his bag that he thought was his masterpiece. It was “real” writing (to be considered literary, valid), done by a formerly “fake” writer (to be considered popular fiction or genre fiction, invalid). He had found huge success writing genre fiction books, the Misery series. But he was angry at having fed into that success.
He felt like a “whore” who wrote what the masses wanted him to write when they wanted him to write it. Writing the series had turned into literal misery for him and he sought to escape it by writing something that he felt was more valuable and by default, had to be better written.
The thing is, Paul could have also attacked his negative feelings about the Misery books by actually writing them better. In order for him to grow tired of them, he had likely fallen into writing the books with trite clichés and tired tropes. Who could look forward to writing something like that?
What Crazy Annie Wilkes managed to do was pull him out of the formulaic writing of the Misery books and into a place where he actually thought out the book and wrote it well. He did not rely on rote techniques to produce the Misery book he wrote under her crazy guidance. He used a solid plot with believable characters and realistic circumstances.
As he wrote that book, he looked forward to getting up and working on it. He welcomed the thought process that sprung from the book’s creation. Yes, he probably felt enthusiastic about writing it because he thought it would save his life. Being in danger of dying can do that for a person. Even so, Annie instilled in him a newfound respect for the process of writing and writing well.
I might need a muse like Annie Wilkes, but I want mine with the crazy on the side so I can use little drips of it when I need to and not be slathered all over with the stuff.