Tuesday, January 05, 2016

More writing inspiration from three prolific and popular authors: Stephen King, Joyce Carol Oates, and John Scalzi

Here's some writing inspiration from prolific and popular authors, from what I've been reading during my lunch breaks. Lunch reading cannot be work reading, and that's when the library's electronic books are a godsend.
1. I've just finished Stephen King's On Writing, and it is as good as everyone has said it is. The only Stephen King novel I've ever read was The Shining, years ago in The Land of No Internets, but even if you're not a horror/suspense fan, the evocation of his early life and his writing life are really interesting.  A few specifics:
    • Write every day--and don't do anything else until you get your targeted writing completed. He writes every morning and aims for 2,000 words a day, which he generally achieves by lunchtime.  Afternoons are for exercise, chores, etc. and evening is for reading.  He gives a long list (updated in this edition) of people he's read and considers to be good.
    • King says that if you don't write every day, you risk having the thing go stale. Press ahead even if you don't know about the background; you can check on that later. 
    • Once you have the manuscript done, during which time you've shown it to no one but may have an ideal reader in mind, leave it in a desk drawer for 6 weeks. Go work on something else until you've almost forgotten it. Then take it out of the drawer and read it with a fresh perspective.
    • For one of his books after the accident that nearly killed him, King used what he called the best wordprocessor in the world: a Waterman cartridge fountain pen. Pen geeks among you will be disappointed that he didn't say which model, but still: fountain pen!
All this sounds really flat, but he says everything more entertainingly in the book.

2. Next up is John Scalzi, who wrote this today in what he probably wouldn't have tagged "writing inspiration"--but it sure is. Those of you who follow Scalzi know he's a prolific Twitterer, blogger, etc., as well as a novelist, so this marks a change for him:
I also think it also has to do with a certain amount of habituation, i.e., if I’m checking email, by brain just goes “Oh, we’re on the Internet now,” and just fires up those parts of my brain that work on the Internet. These do not, by and large, correspond to the novel writing parts of my brain.
How to deal with this? Well, I’ve made a new rule, which really isn’t a new rule, but kind of an update rule. And the rule is: before 2,000 words or noon, whichever comes first, no Internet at all. No blog, no Twitter, no Facebook, no email, no checking the news. When I sit down at the computer (usually around 8am), I disconnect it from the network. I leave the cell phone in the other room (and unless you’re my wife, daughter, editor or agent, if you call the landline, it’s not going to get picked up, either). No Internet. At all.
 3. What to say about Joyce Carol Oates, whose productivity puts us all (except maybe Anthony Grafton) to shame? I've just started her memoir The Lost Landscape and will report back soon. Until then, here are some bullet points from a video I wrote about before in which she discusses writing:
--She can "basically write all day long."
--She writes every day, as soon as she can, even before 7 a.m.
--She looks out the window and her cat keeps her company.
--Revision is "exciting and relaxing."
--Writing is "thrilling."
4. And finally, a different sort of writing inspiration: reading inspiration. Hugh McGuire, at Medium, identifies a problem:
And so, the problem, more or less, is identified:
1.  I cannot read books because my brain has been trained to want a constant hit of dopamine, which a digital interruption will provide.
2. This digital dopamine addiction means I have trouble focusing: on books, work, family and friends
Problem identified, or most of it. There is more. 
And his solution:
And so, starting in January, I started making some changes. The key ones are:
  1. No more Twitter, Facebook, or article reading during the work day (hard)
  2. No reading of random news articles (hard)
  3. No smartphones or computers in the bedroom (easy)
  4. No TV after dinner (it turns out, easy)
  5. Instead, go straight to bed and start reading a book — usually on an eink ereader (it turns out, easy)


Fie upon this quiet life! said...

For me, On Writing boosted Stephen King into the category of most beloved writers ever -- right up there with Shakespeare. Yeah, King is no Shakespeare, but he is such an incredibly imaginative, but also very normal, real person. He's the kind of person I'd love to have coffee with and just chat all day about books and stuff. I've read a lot of his work, but considering how prolific he is, I'm sure I'm missing the best of it. I got his most recently published collection of short stories, and I'm enjoying them quite a bit. The thing that I love most about King, though, is he makes me want to write. He inspires me to actually sit down and do it. That means I need more Stephen King in my life!! I'm glad you liked On Writing. It's my favorite by him. Second, is probably The Stand, and then Lisey's Story (which was long and winding, but worthwhile).

undine said...

"He makes me want to write"--exactly, Fie!