Stephen King writes good books. I think even dislikers of the horror genre (Exhibit A: me) can agree to that.
So when my good friend Sarah gave me his book On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft for my birthday, I was looking forward to seeing what this talented and successful writer had to say to me.
What I didn’t expect was for him to revolutionize my writing life. And yet that’s exactly what happened.
You see, King spends half his book going through various things aspiring writers can do to go from competence to “goodness.” (There’s a whole thing about poor, competent, good and great writers, but I won’t spoil that for you if you haven’t read it). Anyway, he spends quite some time talking about the importance of just writing consistently.
It’s easy to think writing is all about quick moments of inspiration that come upon the writer and overtake her. In these moments, you think, the writer throws everything aside, be that work, family or friendship, and battens down the hatches, so to speak, writing until the inspiration well dries up.
No, no, no, King says. That’s not how you do it. You write every day. You set goals for how much writing you want to get done on a certain day, and you stick to them. You choose a space dedicated just to writing, and you go there every day, lock yourself in and write until you’ve reached your goal. Most importantly, you do not wait for the inspirational muse to come to you: you go to her (or him, as the case may be).
Yeah, there’s a whole section on the muse which, again, I won’t get into since he’s already said it, and quite well at that. The point of it, though, is that if you sit around and wait for the muse to drop by and sprinkle fairy dust on your typewriter, pen or computer, you’ll never write anything.
The secret to writing, King says, is just do it.
So I did.
In the middle of reading the book, and in a fit of excitement and passion for the future, I set all of my alarms to 6:30 a.m. I added it into my calendar: from 6:30-6:59 a.m., read Bible and pray; from 7-7:50 a.m., write.
I’ve been doing it since Sunday. I amended the second part to say, “write for 50 minutes or 1,500 words, whichever comes first,” and every day I’ve hit 1,500 words within about 30 minutes. So in the past four days, I’ve cranked out 6,000 words. And all before 8 a.m.!
Which is great, because it leaves the rest of the day for me to, say, go to work, then come home and chill out in the evening. Whether that means taking a nap, watching tv or reading a good book is completely up to me.
And I feel great about it. I mean, yeah, I’m tired by the time I get home from work, but most days I’m able to push through that. And like with anything, the ability to wake up early is a mental game. As soon as I set my mind to it, I was good to go.
When I say Stephen King revolutionized my life, I mostly mean my writing life. But I am a writer. My writing life is intimately connected to my soul life. Plus, now that I’m getting up early, I do have time to spend with God (there’s perks to everything).
So there you have it: the master of horror, the one genre I mostly shy away from, snuck in and changed everything in my life. And for the better.
Maybe now that I’m following his advice, I’ll follow in his successful footprints, you know what I mean? J