Sunday, March 01, 2009

Three Things I Learned from Stephen King's book, "On Writing"

Three items that particularly stand out are as follows:

1. Write a lot, read a lot: I have always read a lot. I have always thought that I would like to write. However, I didn't write much at all until a few years ago. Writing a blog has given me the incentive to write more often, but I find that I still only write a few posts a month. When I read how much time someone like King puts into a single book, I realize that I need to up the ante quite a bit.

2. King says, “If you write (or paint or dance or sculpt or sing, I suppose), someone will try to make you feel lousy about it, that's all.” I was encouraged. A variety of family members, friends, and acquaintances have all taken a shot at making me feel lousy about writing my blog. The most frequent comment seems to be this: “You must have way to much time on your hands”. Often I feel defensive when someone tosses that comment at me.

It is good to know that even a writer of King's caliber has had to endure those sorts of taunts. More and more I realize that we spend lots of time on all sorts of things: TV, fishing, reading gossip columns, collecting stamps, watching sports, playing video games, etc. ad nauseam. I don't want to make other folks fell bad about how they choose to spend their time. I certainly don't want to let them make me feel bad about how I spend mine. It is estimated that King has sold 300 million copies of his books. However, even if he never sold one, writing them is nothing to feel lousy about.

3. There are no great story items hidden in the earth, just waiting to be dug up. I think way too much about what might be the very best thing to write about. I would do better to just watch for ideas that seem decent and then run with them. I won't even have wasted paper in this era of word processors. I may create something that I really enjoy. Perhaps others will enjoy it.

Seldom can I tell in advance which ideas are going to result in a great final product. First I have to write something As King says, “ Let's get one thing clear right now shall we? There is no Idea Dump, no Story Central, No Island of the Buried Bestsellers; good story ideas seem to come at you right out of the empty sky: two previously unrelated ideas come together and make something new under the sun. Your job isn't to find those ideas but to recognize them when they show up.”
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