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Life (or writing) lessons from Stephen King

Who doesn’t like to take advice from a master? I’d say Stephen King falls into that category. Despite a terrible accident which almost caused him to retire from writing in 2002, King has produced a staggering number of books, including classics like Carrie, The Shining, Misery, and the list goes on. No one does it better, and there have been few that have managed to compete with his mastery of prose and plot. His category of fiction should just bear his namesake!

He’s offered much advice to many over the years, and his 2000 memoir/writing guide called On Writing is widely admired. This recent piece from openculture.com shines a light on King’s top 20 pieces of advice for writers, and it’s worth taking a fresh look at how to implement them in your writing process today.

His advice is so straightforward, and some of it is really simple. One wouldn’t necessarily think that turning off the tv would be a tip that Stephen King would consider in his top 20, but it speaks to the larger issue of a distracted culture and the need to pay attention to the task at hand. It reminds me of my parents always telling me to turn off the tv when I was doing homework as a kid. They had a point, even if I didn’t want to hear it at the time.

The suggestion to finish a draft within 3 months is also interesting. It’s like he’s in your ear screaming “Stop procrastinating!”.

And there are inspiring tips for writing here that are entirely applicable to life in general, so this list does not solely apply to writers and writing. A few to ponder: Don’t worry about making people happy (a ubiquitous but smart piece of advice that my client Amy Morin talks about in her piece “13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do”), The magic is in you, Stick to your own style, and Take a break. Good thoughts for writing and life. Enjoy!

4 Responses to Life (or writing) lessons from Stephen King

  1. Lynn says:

    Well, thank you, Stacey! You just blew my other comment to Sharon right out of the water! There are times (not always) when reading a link gives us wonderful insight to improve our writing skills. This is a good example.

    Like Stephen King, I don’t like any distractions when I’m writing – no television, no music, no people. Yes, I said it, no people! I work best when I’m alone. I have to agree with you, a King genre is definitely needed in fiction.

  2. D.C. DaCosta says:

    I, too, was struck by the “three months” rule, but I didn’t interpret it as a reference to procrastination so much as a reminder that “good enough” is often good enough: no need to repeatedly polish and re-arrange. The word processor has saved us from having to get it right the first time — and enslaved us to endless revising.

    • Lynn says:

      I took his three months as saying, finish that story. Too many people begin to write and never finish because they’re constantly revising those first chapters and eventually lose interest because it becomes overwhelming. If the whole story is written, it gives the incentive to revise and revise until the work is done.

  3. Stacey says:

    Thanks, Lynn and D.C., for your comments. Glad you found Mr. King’s advice useful. I thought the article was worth a share. Sometimes even if there is nothing new to say (although in King’s case, I think a lot of his advice still feels fresh, and even if it’s familiar, coming from him gives us incentive to pay attention). I enjoy sharing advice for writers and will try to keep at it.

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