Stephen King’s On Writing chronicles his writing career from the rejection-slip-collecting kid to the bestselling horror novelist he will become. The book also contains extremely useful writing advice, three of which I’ve been using regularly:
1. Look at a blank wall when you’re writing.
There’s a science to the necessity of the blank wall for writers. Studies conducted at Duke University reveal that our everyday environment triggers repeated behaviours regardless of willpower.
“You need the room, you need the door, and you need the determination to shut the door.”
If you’re easily distracted when writing (like me), change your environment! I’ve quit Facebook, blocked Youtube, and set my phone aside when it’s time to write. Walls are bare to resemble a blank canvas. I’m currently revamping my writing space until it becomes a Kazimir Malevich painting. Success?
2. Don’t actively search for inspiration.
In Stephen King’s own words:
“Your job isn’t to find ideas but to recognize them when they show up.”
This is similar to the “write what you know” philosophy. Inspiration is sourced from the places you’ve been, people you’ve met, and things you’ve done. Add a touch of the unknown, a willingness to explore, and you’ll have stories bombarding you left and right.
Since I replaced Google with the world around me, I started noticing the everyday stories, like
A River Phoenix lookalike sipping mystery juice in Amsterdam’s Dam Square.
Me, looking slightly murderous, on graduation day.
The strange way children’s limbs bend when they rush towards a parent.
3. You need to have a great writing support group.
Stephen King had his wife Tabitha, who believed in him when he didn’t. As a first reader and critic, Tabitha is also vocal about what she doesn’t like:
When she catches me in a goof, I know it, and thank God I’ve got someone around who’ll tell me my fly’s unzipped before I go out in public that way.
Outside of boosting morale and wielding the editor’s pen, the support system brings the additional benefit of automating the writing process. Everything becomes easier once you know, almost on reflex, the next step in the process of production, and the fact that somebody cares, and is holding you accountable.
Sure enough, I’m back on WordPress, making To-Do lists, and trying to update my support group on my daily word count. I occasionally fail, but I’ll keep at it, and fail better.
What do you think of Stephen King’s advice? Do you have a different writing approach?