Stephen King is one of the most prolific writers alive. He proudly declares that he works everyday, including weekends and his birthdays. In his book “On Writing”, he encourages all wannabe writers to be consistent in their work and let the Muse come when it will. Consistency builds momentum, and flow. Both of which are great when you are doing something as hard as trying to write original things.
Stephen King (Source: Reddit.com)
“Once I start work on a project, I don’t stop and I don’t slow down unless I absolutely have to. If I don’t write every day, the characters begin to stale off in my mind—they begin to seem like characters instead of real people…. Worst of all, the excitement of spinning something new begins to fade. The work starts to feel like work, and for most writers that is the smooch of death….The truth is that when I’m writing, I write every day…. That includes Christmas, the Fourth (of July), and my birthday….For me, not working is the real work. When I’m writing, it’s all the playground, and the worst three hours I ever spent there were still pretty damned good.”
He also suggests setting daily writing goals of the words or pages worked on, and not the time taken to write them. Since he measures and works towards the results and not the effort, the results are consistent, even if the time taken to get them varies.
“I like to get ten pages a day, which amounts to 2,000 words. That’s 180,000 words over a three-month span, a goodish length for a book—something in which the reader can get happily lost, if the tale is done well and stays fresh. On some days those ten pages come easily; I’m up and out and doing errands by eleven-thirty in the morning, perky as a rat in liverwurst. More frequently, as I grow older, I find myself eating lunch at my desk and finishing the day’s work around one-thirty in the afternoon. Sometimes, when the words come hard, I’m still fiddling around at teatime. Either way is fine with me, but only under dire circumstances do I allow myself to shut down before I get my 2,000 words.”
He encourages writers to have a private space where they can feel safe and write, without intrusions. While this is easy for writers of means who can afford their own room, it can be slightly harder to manage if you have to share your space and don’t have much privacy.
“The biggest aid to regular production is working in a serene atmosphere. It’s difficult for even the most naturally productive writer to work in an environment where alarms and excursions are the rule rather than the exception….You can read anywhere, almost, but when it comes to writing, library carrels, park benches, and rented flats should be courts of last resort,…most of us do our best in a place of our own….(The space)really needs only one thing: a door which you are willing to shut. The closed door is your way of telling the world and yourself that you mean business. If possible, there should be no telephone in your writing room, certainly no TV or videogames for you to fool around with. If there’s a window, draw the curtains or pull down the shades unless it looks out at a blank wall. For any writer, but for the beginning writer in particular, it’s wise to eliminate every possible distraction. “
Muse with Lyre
Writing is like sliding into the wells of your subconscious where dreams and ideas are made. When you are interrupted, you are constantly jerked back to the surface. How can you create good work without access to the substratum of the outer world?
“When you’re writing, you’re creating your own worlds. I think we’re actually talking about creative sleep. Like your bedroom, your writing room should be private, a place where you go to dream. Your schedule—in at about the same time every day, out when your thousand words are on paper or disk—exists in order to habituate yourself, to make yourself ready to dream just as you make yourself ready to sleep by going to bed at roughly the same time each night and following the same ritual as you go. In both writing and sleeping, we learn to be physically still at the same time we are encouraging our minds to unlock from the humdrum rational thinking of our daytime lives. And as your mind and body grow accustomed to a certain amount of sleep each night—six hours, seven, maybe the recommended eight—so can you train your waking mind to sleep creatively and work out the vividly imagined waking dreams which are successful works of fiction.”
King almost gives us a formula for producing good work, and for calling the elusive Muse.
“But you need the room, you need the door, and you need the determination to shut the door. You need a concrete goal, as well. The longer you keep to these basics, the easier the act of writing will become. Don’t wait for the muse. As I’ve said, he’s a hardheaded guy who’s not susceptible to a lot of creative fluttering. This isn’t the Ouija board or the spirit-world we’re talking about here, but just another job like laying pipe or driving long-haul trucks. Your job is to make sure the muse knows where you’re going to be every day from nine ’til noon or seven ’til three. If he does know, I assure you that sooner or later he’ll start showing up, chomping his cigar and making his magic.”
What after you have checked on all the boxes?
“So okay—there you are in your room with the shade down and the door shut and the plug pulled out of the base of the telephone. You’ve blown up your TV and committed yourself to a thousand words a day, come hell or high water. Now comes the big question: What are you going to write about? And the equally big answer: Anything you damn well want. Anything at all . . .as long as you tell the truth”