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?

12 comments on What Stephen King Told Me This Week

  1. I never wanted to be a fighter pilot or a firefighter or a chef when I was growing up. All I’ve ever wanted to be was a writer or a stand-up comedian – the lines become blurry between the two crafts, really. I want[ed] all of it – the addictions, the pain, the success, the turmoil, the long nights, the successes and the failures. When most kids were dreaming of taking that first step onto the surface of the moon, or curing a debilitating disease, I was dreaming of 2 AM sets and corner bookstores – oozing with an authenticity that borders on ironic.

    I’m 33 now. I haven’t done anything to pursue my dreams. Odd, really. Considering the only thing I need to achieve my dreams are self-discipline, hard work, and a little motivation. Bill Hicks and John Belushi were 33 when they died. So were Chris Farley and Jesus. Time isn’t linear. I know that it isn’t too late. Maybe I’ll write my 1000 words today. Maybe I won’t. I can tell you with 100% certainty though that I will always read your 1000 words. Cheers my friend.

    1. Thank you, my friend!

      With the move and the built-in resistance of summer days I have been a little lax in my word-craft for a bit, and I feel guilty as hell about it. I’ve “pursued” writing before in my life, and my life is nearly half again as far along as yours, but never really took it seriously. I take it seriously now. I almost wrote a piece about Memorial Day, on Memorial Day, because the celebration of war is so disdainful to me and because I feel only pity for the pour souls who litter landscapes with tombstones under the false premise of freedom and the real premise of greed, but I talked myself out of it. Partially I skipped it because I had so much packing to do, and partially because I was sick of hearing myself. I often wonder if beating my head against this foolish wall of nationalistic pride is an exercise in ineptitude. So I thought about waiting another day and writing about the NBA playoffs or updating the progress on my spring resolutions, or something else more self-serving.

      Instead I wrote nothing. I consider that the worst sin of all.

      Thank you for rekindling my passion with a few kind words. Sometimes all we need is a little motivation, and that can come from outside. The discipline and hard work must come from within. In 14 years you’ll be as old as I am now and whether you write or stand-up and make people laugh in the interim – two things I think you will be exceedingly great at, by the way – you will still be 14 years older. Might as well take the first steps now; I’d give anything to have started that long before I did. 😉

    2. Dylan! This is what I wrote, and you wrote, and I wrote back, more than a year ago! Come see it again, and let’s both get our passions running. Let’s write!!

  2. Wonderful information as well as insights. You and I truly share an affinity. I wish I had not lost the novella I wrote in my gaming world I created, but Katrina caused many of us to lose so much. I loved your situational story.

    1. Oh, thanks! That is an actual scene from the (now 25-year) ongoing game I run for the missus. The female lead is her character; the demigod her husband. Was it decent? I’m so noob at fiction-writing!

      1. *kind … just caught that. 😉

        Sounds great! When the group gets together (rarer these days) it’s 1E AD&D with 2E and anything else I come up with mixed in. Like you say, the rules don’t matter; the story does.

        Mrs C can’t even stand the dice part of it. 😉

Now, You Be You:

%d bloggers like this: