Stephen King used to be on Facebook.
And not the official author page he has now.
He used to have an ordinary profile page, just like the rest of us.
It was pretty fleeting, as I’m sure he realized early on that Facebook is a huge time suck and it was distracting him from his writing. Plus, he probably got tons of crazed fan mail from people like me.
So I was once “Friends” with Stephen King–one of the great highlights of my life, as I’m sure you can understand.
Not one to waste an opportunity, I jumped at the chance to ask him for some advice.
At the time, I was juggling many freelance journalism assignments with a full-time public relations and communications job. I was working on a novel, but my motivation was lacking. I found it extremely difficult to make my fiction writing a priority, even though being a novelist was what I wanted more than anything in the world.
I poured out my heart to The King and asked for advice. “My day jobs leave no time for my own writing,” I said. “What should I do?”
He responded with two words: “Write more.” He went on to say that I should write more articles, poetry, short stories, novellas–anything.
To say I was unimpressed with this advice would be an understatement. My problem was that I was writing too much already! How on earth could I possibly write more? And how would it help if I could?
Now that I can look back on this advice with years of perspective, I see that he was right. People talk about muscle memory–well, the ability to write is a muscle too, and the more you use it, the stronger it gets.
As for not having enough time, I think that I was confusing a lack of time with a lack of prioritization. I was whining about not having enough time to a man who once worked as a teacher while struggling to be a good husband and a father to young children. A man who still found time to write novels and stories while crammed into the tiny closet he used as an office. Is it surprising he wasn’t too sympathetic?
People often complain that there’s not enough time in the day. Not enough time to exercise, not enough to see friends, not enough time to write or be creative in any way that moves us.
But those are some of the things that make life worth living, or help us to live longer. How are you really spending your time? Do you regularly fall down YouTube or Wikipedia rabbit holes that make you less productive at work, meaning your day job duties creep into your spare time? Do you spend hours watching TV or playing video games? Everyone needs down time, and it’s important, but if you want to succeed at writing–or any other passion you may have–you need to put in the time.
My first novel took years to finish. I had to completely rework it from scratch. Twice. This year, I wrote three. Are they of lesser quality than the first one that took years? No, they’re better. Tighter. By flexing that writing muscle, I have become a stronger storyteller. And a novella I crammed into an already jam-packed schedule will be published next year.
So I’d like to thank Stephen King for his wonderful–yet deceptively simple–advice. I’m just sorry it took me so long to follow it.
What was the best advice you ever received? What’s your favourite Stephen King quote?
What a neat story!!! I need to take that advice from you both!=-)
Thanks, Tana. Thought it was a good time of year to write about The Master of Horror.
Your time is your own right now–don’t forget to take advantage of it!
Best advice you can give to any artist – keep at it. It’s the only way to get better.
Thanks for commenting, James! It’s great to see you here again.
It’s so easy to drop the dreams of being a writer, a rockstar, etc. when they take so long to achieve for many of us. The ones who persist have fine sets of armour.
It’s so true. If I knew back when I first started writing full-time just how much I would write on a daily basis, I would’ve fallen over dead. I know artists, and they constantly are sketching, because that’s how you get good at the craft.
King’s advice to never lie in your writing I find invaluable. That was a hard one for me to embrace, but I think I’ve finally reached that point (I hope I’m not lying to myself).
I honestly don’t know of another writer who has provided us with as many amazing, quotable pieces of advice as King. Not only is King’s “On Writing” an incredibly helpful book–almost every line is worth tweeting to a chorus of favourites. Your choice is a good one.
Thanks for mentioning that about artists. It’s good to know that this advice resonates with others as well.
Stephen King gave you personalized advice. It was great advice–but I really appreciate how you expounded on it, even if you’re not S.K. Yet. 🙂
Thanks, Ev. I have no idea why it took me so long to blog about it.