On Stephen King’s book, “On Writing”
First, I’d like to announce that this is my fourth day in a row waking up before 7am and exercising. Insomnia? Bite me.
As you can probably tell by the title of the blog, I’ve just finished reading (via audiobook) On Writing, by Stephen King. It’s pretty much on my top list of things a writer should expose themselves to if they really want to do this seriously.
There are tons of good messages to be had from the book, but from my own current state of figuring out what to do next, there was only one message for me. I wish I’d received it when I was first graduating High School and was confronted by some unsavory people telling me I’d never succeed at this. The message, themed repeatedly in his book, is this; Write with the door shut, and edit with the door open.
This means you write the first draft for yourself, and nobody else. You write without worrying how it will be received, or how that awesome writer friend of yours, the one who seems to be the epitome of eloquence, will react when they read this part. You write without worrying if this is really representative of the State Police of Pennsylvania, or whether dogs can look up.
During the editing phase, you write with those things in mind, but I’ve never much struggled with editing. The hardest, but also the most exhilarating part of writing, comes when you’re first playing around with your keyboard or pen and paper. You’re having fun with it. You’re telling a story.
There were, of course, other phases to addressing my Writer’s block. A technique I think all writers who write must have mastered, is being able to honestly take a look into yourself and figure out why you aren’t able to write right now. Sometimes it is classic Writer’s Block, one of “I don’t know what comes next”. As often, or more often, you might find that there are things pressing on you to get done, or that you’re simply afraid of something. (My most common fear is that I’ll put so much energy into something that sucks.) Sometimes, you just need to grab some lunch before you can focus.
The trick, I believe, is the honesty. Being able to look inside and ask yourself, “What is it that is keeping me from writing right now? Am I afraid? Is there a more pressing matter that is bothering me?”
To some extent, people have to deal with this kind of honesty if they want to get anything done. When you go to practice your music, art, or to exercise, you might just need to ask yourself the same question. Bullying yourself into the “I must do it anyway!” attitude is very American, but it’s like pushing snow. You push and push and you feel it give for awhile, but eventually the mound of snow you’ve gathered will prove too much, and you’ll collapse.