Writing About On Writing

So I figured I mentioned Stephen King and his wonderful memoir/writing book enough that I should expound on it in a post.  So this post is about On Writing and what I gained by reading it.

First things first is that I had a click about what to write.  He talks about how often times people try to write what they think is good or popular but is not what they actually like.  For Stephen, he is a really good writer and he really likes the horror genre.  Critics often questioned why he used his talent to write some of the stuff he did and the answer was that he enjoyed it and it came easily.  You could argue that that is why it was so well-received by the public.  When I think back on the books I’ve loved over the years they include some magic and fantasy intertwined with reality.  The Harry Potter Series and The Time Traveler’s Wife were my absolute favorites.  That is the sort of thing I am writing now (well was writing till I came to that screeching halt..more on that in a bit) and is basically what my last book was.  So despite the fact that the stuff I write and like is not the stuff the members of my writing group are drawn to, it is most definitely the right thing for me.

The next piece of advice I got and found that it confirmed what my gut had been telling me all along was this:  “First write with the door closed, then write with it open.”  I’m not sure if the quote is exactly right but the gist is when you are working on a first draft show it to no one until it is finished.   If you show your work to people as you go you may get good feedback which will cause you to get ahead of yourself and start planning the future of the book instead of just writing it.  If you get bad feedback you may get discouraged and come to a screeching halt.  I knew exactly what he was talking about because I made this mistake.  I started writing my novel and chapter by chapter started sharing it with others, friends and my writing group.  I got some great feedback that got those wheels turning and stars clouding my vision.  I got some bad feedback that made me want to cry and tear the whole thing up.  The whole time my inner voice kept telling me to STOP sharing it.  I didn’t.  Ultimately I ran out of steam.  The balloon of excitement that contained the book deflated little by little until I found myself no longer writing it.

Which I guess brings me to the last bit of advice which is that quote I featured last Sunday.  “If God gives you something you can do, why in God’s name wouldn’t you do it?”  I don’t think I’m a great writer, in fact I still struggle with even calling myself a writer at all.  For me that phrase (I am a writer)  is more like an affirmation…something I say until it becomes true.   But I do know that I’ve always loved putting words together and sharing them with people.  I know that I feel a little more alive when I write something that moves someone in some way.  For many years (about 11 I think)  I didn’t write.  God had given me something I could do and I didn’t do it.  For three years though, I’ve been doing it.  I’d like to do it more.  The only reason I’m excited to see Callee go off to kindergarten next year is the promise of 3 or more good hours a day of uninterrupted writing time.  I think it will be my heaven or at least my salvation.

The book was filled with great advice and fascinating stories about Stephen’s life.  If definitely made me feel better about my own writing.  I don’t yet have the hours in my schedule that he suggests putting in (3-6 per day) but I will do what I can and hopefully embrace those hours when they arrive.    Thank you, Stephen King, for your wonderful book.

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10 thoughts on “Writing About On Writing

  1. Joey @ Big Teeth & Clouds October 20, 2010 / 9:51 am

    I too am struggling to call myself a writer and also struggling to write a novel. This is a great post and sounds like a worthwhile book to read.

    My only daughter just went to kindergarten this fall. It does free up a lot of time!

    • lesleehorner October 20, 2010 / 11:07 am

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting. It was a great book and definitely one worth checking out.

  2. eviltwinswife October 20, 2010 / 10:10 am

    My husband is a graphic designer, but he does not use the “artist” label, even though that’s what he is. He says, “That’s subjective – it’s for others to say if I’m an artist or not.” I think it’s the same with any creative process. You have to let others give you the title “Writer” or “Author”. I write all the time and refuse to give myself that label, too. We just have to keep on keeping on and hope others see us the way we’d like to be seen. 🙂

    • lesleehorner October 20, 2010 / 11:10 am

      When I decided to go to my first Writer’s Conference I felt very reluctant. I remember telling a friend that I didn’t know how I’d feel hanging out with a bunch of writers since I didn’t really consider myself one of them. I guess the future will tell me if I really am an author…

      • meeshelleneal October 20, 2010 / 5:28 pm

        I am often hesitant to say that I am a writer or an actor so I often call myself an artist, because it’s all-encompassing.

  3. Karen Peterson October 20, 2010 / 1:17 pm

    On Writing is such a great book! It really motivated me to get back into writing seriously and helped me realize some important truths about the process.

    • lesleehorner October 20, 2010 / 7:10 pm

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I have read Bird By Bird and Writing Down the Bone, which were both great books, but this one really gave me some advice I could put into action. (Of course those other books probably did to, I just didn’t actually follow through on that advice….) This one also really verified my gut feelings about my own process.

  4. EVERYDAYWRITING October 20, 2010 / 2:37 pm

    Nice blog! I have to say that this book is my favorite writing book. I’ve actually gifted it to friends. One thing that I love about King is that he is an honest writer. He doesn’t lie to the reader or himself. He writes what he enjoys and that is what puts the passion and fire into his stories.

    -EVERYDAYWRITING.

    • lesleehorner October 20, 2010 / 7:13 pm

      I know I loved that too in this book (I’m embarrassed to say that although I’ve seen some of the movies this was the first book I’d read by him.) He talks a lot about that honesty in writing. In fact I was thinking of writing a post about Eminem and the honesty he puts into his lyrics. I think that when writers and authors are honest we really feel it. Those feelings aren’t always positive, but honesty definitely touches us.

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