What Stephen King Told Me This Week

stephen king on writing

A couple of days ago Stephen King gave me some good advice about writing. Now, I’m not a delusional man so I’m not saying he came to me in a dream or somehow delivered information to me psychically, I’m saying he talked to me through his own writing. He told me to write every day. That seems a simple enough thing to say and the same advice that you’d give me, most likely, if I asked you how I could become a better writer. But he added something else, something you might not say to me to my face.

He told me that if I’m not writing at least 1000 words a day, every day, then I don’t want to be a writer.

He was right.

If I’m only writing when I want to write, then I’m not doing justice to my writing. I need to write when I don’t feel like it even more than I need to write when I do. I need to write on weekends, on holidays, after a good sleep, after a bad sleep, when I’m feeling dandy and when I’m hungover as hell.

One thousand words. Every day. At least.

Another thing Stephen King told me was to write without distraction. If you’ve ever been around me for any length of time you know that I don’t do much without distraction. My mind wanders. My sentences bleed together. My concentration trails as I think of the next thing I want to say. I interrupt you. I know, I’m terrible about that.

My phone is a constant distraction. As I’m going about the business of doing whatever I’m doing on any given day I’m likely to grab that damn device a million times to see if there’s a news update, a sports bulletin, a group text, a cool status update, or another round of Words with Friends to play. There’s always something going on in the world, and that thing seems to know about it.

So when I’m writing I’m taking frequent breaks to see what’s happening out there. Stephen King says I have to stop that. Stephen King says I must write without interruption or it just won’t come out the way it could, it should, it might. Stephen King says that if I don’t write without distraction I’m probably not a writer.

The last and, potentially, most important thing that Stephen King taught me this week was how to write fiction. Yeah, I’ve been doing some of that this week. In fact, I’ve been writing 1000 words of fiction every morning without distraction. See, I’m a good listener. But the most important thing he taught me about writing fiction is to stop worrying about storyline and plot and just write situationally. Situation writing is what he calls writing about a segment of time and some things happening to some characters without any full knowledge of what came before and what comes after. You’re basically letting the characters and the situation work themselves out for you.

It may be the single most entertaining and challenging thing I’ve ever done. It’s like running an RPG with myself. Orcs attack, roll initiative. Can I fire arrows? They’re too close. I run. Dammit, you’re faster than them, they have small legs.

Seriously, I never saw that ending coming until I wrote it. That’s situational writing.

So Stephen King played a fairly important role in my week. He taught me a lot. He may have changed my life; I’ll keep you abreast about that. In the meantime, enjoy your day and let me know who influenced you this week in all the best possible ways. If nobody did, go find someone who will. Life is too short not to be a writer. Or trombone player. Or gymnast. Or whatever it is that you ain’t but should be.

In the meantime, if you feel inclined, check out a bit of situational writing I did this week. Don’t worry about what came before or what happens after – I don’t know any of that yet myself – just lose yourself in the pacing and enjoy the characters.

And let me know if I’m doing it right. Be honest. Stephen King would never lie to me. Why would you?

The Meaning of Life

meaning of life

The other night I got caught up in a continuous philosophical loop at about 2 in the morning. As sleepless nights go it wasn’t a bad one, full of fret or anxiety … this one was about what really matters. Literally. At 2 AM in a half-sleep stupor on the verge of restful slumber I muttered these words deep down in my psyche:

“What really matters?”

That subject stayed with me over the next 3 hours. I mulled over the concept, about what is really important in life. There are some trivial, peripheral dramas playing out around me right now – and some not-so-trivial major ones as well – so the question became a vital one. I needed an answer to help me make a decision. I needed to refine my focus.

Earlier in the evening I was listening to music, playing some Madden football on the PC and … brace yourselves … drinking some beer. An old song came on that I like by a band that no one likes at all anymore. The song talked about the end of life and, more specifically, how a person might spend their final day on Earth. That song played again in my head, like a soundtrack, in the wee hours of the morning while I contemplated the truly essential bits in life.

Now I’m not here to say that I know what’s important in your life or that there is some universal equation for fulfillment. Happiness varies. What makes your life meaningful may be the exact opposite of what makes mine worthwhile. Some folks fish for zen; others run for peace. There is no problem with what you like to do, with how you spend your living days – or with how you would spend your final one – as long as your pleasure doesn’t increase anyone else’s pain.

Unless pain happens to be their pleasure, but that’s a horse-whip of a different color.

In the three hours I had between the time I asked the question until the time when it was morally acceptable to get up, I answered it for myself. If you’re my friend reading this you already know that my last day would involve time with big beautiful golden dogs, a good three hours in a bar, and an evening of wrapping up RPG storylines. There would be loud music, superheroes, the ’99 super bowl, a lot of writing, a bit of reading, and a barrel of beer. You know that my beautiful companion would be by my side every moment possible. You know that you would, too.

Every day that I am alive I spend as much time as I possibly can with my wife, with my dogs, with my friends, with the Avengers, with the Rams, with my imagination, with this medium, and with a safe amount of ice cold beer. I don’t fish and I don’t hunt and I don’t run unless I absolutely have to. I don’t begrudge another person their pleasures, though. Not ever.

Take a moment today, if you have one, to ask the question of yourself. Try not to wait until 2 in the morning, and please don’t wait until your last day. But if it was your last day, how would you spend it? Once you know the answer to that question you will know what really matters. Go and do as much of that stuff every day as you possibly can. I’m happy to say that I do.

Hey, I guess there was sort of a universal equation for fulfillment, after all.

Now plug in your variables and solve for why.

Right v Left

affiliations of right v leftI have an assignment for you.

With the presumptive nominee in place for the Republican party and the presumptive nominee for the Democratic party all but assured, how assured are you that you know their true affiliations? We’ve seen the battle going on inside the Republican party between the people’s choice and the party’s choice. We’ve seen the misgivings by Democratic constituents that have allowed an independent outsider to challenge for the seat of the president under the banner of the political left.

But what is left? Some Republicans see Donald Trump as far too left with his political beliefs, particularly in the past. Both sides see Bernie Sanders as a leftist, even a socialist. Ted Cruz was far too right for many, even in his own party. Hillary Clinton seems to sway with the wind, changing her direction like a rooster atop a weathervane. Left when it suits her needs; right as the flow demands.

Maybe they all do that, to meet their money concerns.

But the problem with the classic model of political discourse is that there are only two directions to point; the wind blows only east or west. It’s easier that way to identify your friends, I suppose, and nail down your enemies. But the model is institutionally flawed.

A few years ago I discovered a new model, one I find to be inherently better. I won’t describe it in fine detail just yet, because part of the assignment is discovery. The idea here is pretty simple: click the link below, take the (short) test, and get your results.

Don’t read the description, don’t click through the home page, don’t overthink any question, just take the test. Once finished, I encourage you to go back and read it all. You might be astonished by what you find. I certainly was. In many ways, it changed my perceptions of the system of labels we take for granted and started my search for a better understanding of the process and the ideas presented within. I hope it does the same for you.

Again, the actual quiz isn’t very long and it isn’t very difficult. It’s multiple choice and will probably take you less than 20 minutes. It will ask some very basic questions, and a couple of more complicated ones. Once it is finished I would love for you to send me the coordinates listed on your results so I can build my own custom chart. You’ll find them at the bottom of your results page. If I get enough response I’ll share the chart in a future blog.

Here’s the link:


One last thought:

I know not everyone reading this is “political,” but I appreciate your participation anyway. Whether or not you pull the lever and help to move the system, the system is moving in your life and affecting you in every way, every day. I cannot begin to believe that I can awaken everyone to the importance of politics, but …

Wait, yes I can. “Changing the world” is on my bucket list. 😉

So take the test. Take an interest. Pull the lever.

Let’s move the world.