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 itself 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 should you?