When I told my boyfriend’s wonderfully creative and interesting best friend and flatmate, G., that I was trying to do more writing, produce something bigger this year, she told me, “there’s this book you must read.” I figured it was worth a shot. Why not? Although perhaps it was another way to procrastinate instead of writing itself… While at first it seemed like it would be difficult to find, it wasn’t, the trusty bookshop near my work (which happens to sell more copies of my poetry book than anywhere else in the world…) had it, I didn’t even need to special order it.
I was somewhat suspicious of buying a book by Stephen King to advise me how to write when I don’t think I’ve ever read anything by him. But everyone has lessons to teach, and why not? It came on good recommendation.
If anything, it was an easy and enjoyable read. I found his straight-talking Americana language reminded me of my writer friend Steve K’s books (hmm, that’s strange that they have the same initials and first names). There is the strange form of addressing the reader during the whole book in a a cajoling, friendly, curmudgeonly tone. I liked the anecdotes of important events in his life of a writer. And the technical advice was pretty good. It was a primer on a whole range of topics, clear and direct writing, editing, dialogue, plot, themes, publishing, finding an agent.
In some way, it was affirming to read messages which I basically believe. Write truthfully. Write not for fame or fortune. Also, to recognise that I set myself on the right course in my early years. I submitted my writing far and wide, I sought readers and editors, I read as a way of inspiring and informing my own writing.
One of my main thoughts on reading the book was about “voice” and gaining a mass readership. Without having read any of his work, what I sense is that Stephen King is such a widely-read writer not only for his skill and craft but because his voice, his characters speak to so many people. He reflects back to a huge readership their fears and desires and imagination.
I sense that my own writing, no matter how truthfully or skillfully I write, will not reach a mass readership because my own experiences are so removed from the mainstream. They will instead attract a small and eclectic readership, not a bad thing necessarily. It’s something I figured out after publishing “Calendar Boy” so it’s not a new revelation – but King’s book reminded me of the issue.
The other big issue brought up by reading this book is about writing, the physical act of production. King comments on writers who have only written a handful of books in their career. What else are they doing with their time?: “If God gives you something you can do, why in God’s name wouldn’t you do it?” Strong words. Strong advice. An issue that nags at me constantly, and moreso in the last year, the last months. I have published three books, and have another on the way, and I’ve never sat down consistently and worked hard at it! I’ve had periods of working hard to edit. I’ve had days of working hard to produce a story. I’ve worked to polish manuscripts. But daily writing? No.
I’ve been working towards this with both my daily morning pages (which aren’t daily) and with this writer’s blog – but my journaling or my thoughts on writing (and usually my complaints about not writing) are not resulting in actual production of fiction.
King suggests writing every day – something I’ve heard and shrugged off for years. But now it’s really time to start. I feel fear writing this down – since if I don’t do this, my failed intentions are up and public and visible. But King reflected back to me what I’ve said to myself all year. I believe I have a gift. I believe that I am a good writer. Why am I not using that gift? Why am I not writing? One thousand words a day, he suggested, one day off a week as a break. Let’s see how I do.