Saturday, December 15, 2007

On Being a Writer -- Robin

About once a year I re-read my copy of On Writing by Stephen King. Every time I read it, I learn something new. It is hands-down one of the best books on writing ever written.

After describing his difficulties in life and how his success came about (which is totally fascinating) he writes a chapter called “Toolbox” where he gets to the nitty-gritty of writing. Here’s one of my favorite quotes (one of many):

Put your vocabulary on the top shelf of your toolbox, and don’t make any conscious effort to improve it. One of the really bad things you can do to your writing is to dress up vocabulary, looking for long words because you’re maybe a little bit ashamed of your short ones. This is like dressing up a household pet in evening clothes. The pet is embarrassed and the person who committed this act of premeditated cuteness should be even more embarrassed.
(I didn’t continue with the quote because it involved curse words. Good ones, too.)

I love Stephen King. And I want to be him. So today, I tried it out. I decided I would be Stephen King.

In the book, he describes his writing schedule. Basically, he writes in the morning until around noon, or until he has ten pages written…whichever comes first. Then he has lunch, takes a nap, and goes for a walk. (True, his afternoon walk almost killed him once, but that’s another story.) Just the fact that he is such a talented and prolific writer, yet has such a simple schedule, made me feel…relieved. For some reason, I assumed people with his success were writing into the wee hours of the night, pulling out their hair, and kicking their dog. I was curious to see if his simple schedule would work for me.

I worked extra hours at my day job earlier in the week and devoted my entire Friday to what I like to refer to as…Being Stephen King Day. (It could catch on!)

I shoved my child off to school by 8:30, ate some breakfast, and was in my writing room by 9. (Okay, fine. 9:10. But Regis and Kelly had Anderson Cooper on, and I find him strangely attractive.)

I wrote straight through until noon. I didn’t get ten pages done, but I got a lot done. More than usual. (And for me, “more than usual” is a reason to celebrate.) I ate my lunch, went for a nice long run on a cliff trail overlooking the Pacific, jotted down some ideas for my next chapter, showered, applied some mascara and lipgloss, vacuumed real quick, and went to pick up my son from school. That was it. Being Stephen King Day had come to an end.


Me and Stephen King are now exactly the same (except for the fact that we’re completely different). I now have to get back to my old schedule of work-laundry-groceries-homework-work-laundry-groceries-homework...while he gets to go back to being fabulous.

But at least I got to be him for a day. (Please know that if I actually was Stephen King, I think I’d purchase cuter eyeglasses.)

What about you guys? What type of schedule works for you? Any Stephen King-ers out there?

- Robin

Okay, one more favorite quote from the book:

Writing is not life, but I think that sometimes it can be a way back to life.


Disco Mermaids said...

I don't have the book in front of me to quote, but I love when he compares book reviewers to the babysitter from his childhood who farted on his face.


- Jay

Disco Mermaids said...

Can't believe that of ALL the gazillions of writing books I've read, this isn't among them. I must read it today.

Great post, Ro, I mean Stephen. I know you know my writing schedule, but just for comparison sake, here it is:

Wake up crack 'O Noon. Heavy caffeination period from noon to 1pm, while checking email and blogs. Laundry, clean house, more laundry, play with dogs, run with dogs, run errands and/or meet Jay and Robin downtown for coffee. I'm usually in the writing chair by 5pm, but then have to break for dinner and another run. Back in the writing chair by 7pm. Write 'til 2am. Then wake up and do it all over again! Okay, sometimes I only last until midnight.

And, I agree, AC is hot, man!


cynjay said...

I LOVE that book. If I need a boost I just read bits randomly. I also love Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott.

When I'm working on a new manuscript, I write 1,000 words per day. Sometimes I write more, but I can't go to sleep unless I write 1,000. It's not that much so it doesn't seem too daunting when you sit down, but the key is that at some point in the day you have to sit down and make contact with the characters. I actually took that from old SK, but I adapted the ten pages to 1k. Whatever works.

krw3b said...

What kind of twisted heaven involves vacuuming, I'd like to know?

Other than that, the days sounds great!

laurasalas said...

That kind of simplicity sounds great. I wish I could make my life that simple--doctors' appts, grocery know the drill.

In general, the writing schedule that works for me is to start on the creative part of my writing work right after my kids leave for school. Work all morning.

Then after lunch, work on the business side of freelance web work, my marketing stuff, answering emails, etc.

I like King's schedule better.

Disco Mermaids said...

Thanks for sharing your schedules. All except for you, Eve, cuz your writing life makes me cry tears of jealousy. ;-)

And KRW3B, (that probably stands for something very adorable, right?) I am weird about my joy in vacuuming. As long as it's not stairs, it's a very enjoyable task to me. But it's even more fun to pay my son a quarter and watch him do it.