Take it from the master: work every day

An excellent piece on Stephen King's tips for writers, which come from his magisterial book On Writing which of course you ought to read (I have) and absorb (I'm trying) if you want to be a writer.

A good one, I mean.

Not surprisingly, given his prodigious output, he also believes that writers must write daily. Practice helps shape a writer’s voice. Daily practice keeps him or her on intimate terms with characters and plot.

Got that?

Nose to the grindstone, young writer! Quit looking for fairy godmothers and making excuses! Though you might be able to fast track to the magical moment King revealed in a 2003 speech at Yale, above.

Go back to the bookstore.

Ask the clerk to point you toward the shelves of whatever genre has traditionally made your flesh crawl. Chick litvampire eroticamanly airplane reads. Select the most odious seeming title. Buy it. Read it. And heed the words of King:

There’s a magic moment, a really magic moment if you read enough, it will always come to you if you want to be a writer, when you put down some book and say, This really sucks. I can do better than this, and this got published!

Stephen King is a master, and he does know how it's done. Even if you don't particularly like his style; FWIW, I don't read his newer stuff with nearly as much pleasure as I get from reading Cujo or Dolores Claiborne (movie's good, too, but the book is way better) or Thinner (or Carrie or that one about the car oh and of course Pet Sematary). Anyway, he's a writing and publishing god, so when he takes the time to show me how it's done, I really ought to listen.

Starting with the daily thing. I have a very busy life, as you know, but I do write every day. It's actually in my calendar. I have several projects I'm working on, and they each get assigned a daily time slot. I also blog and putter around on social media, writing extra bits here and there, on top of editing pretty much everything John writes. No, I don't have time to write. Or read. But I immerse myself in words every day anyway. I read as much as I can, and I write write write. Because otherwise I wouldn't be a writer. I'd be an aspiring writer.

It's not the same.

And yes, I have had that magic moment he talks about, of reading something and thinking, oh hell, I write better than this. I've had it a long time ago for non-fiction. I published a few non-fiction books, along with who knows how many newspaper columns and magazine articles. I'm newer at fiction, but there again I'm finding my way thanks to my daily writing habit.

It's not just for writing either, you know. That daily business. It's for anything you want to be good at. Like for instance karate. I work on it every single day, including when I don't make it to the dojo. Sometimes "working on something" means taking a few minutes to visualize a certain element and practice it a few times. You don't always have to get super sweaty. But you must work at it - whatever it is you're doing - every day. (Oh sure, a day off here and there is fine. But no more. Wouldn't want to become a poseur now, would you.)

So there. If you're struggling with something you'd like to be better at, there's only one thing you can do, and it's to deconstruct your problem until you have identified what you need to work on to get better (ask for help from someone who's better at it than you if you need it), and dedicate yourself to working on those things every single day until you do become better.

It's very simple, actually. Not easy. But simple. You just have to do it.

Why the weak self fails to concentrate

Children and the elasticity of time