What would Stephen King do?

A good question to ask, I always think. In fact, I once embroidered a sampler of those very words for a fellow writer as her NaNoWriMo ‘prize’.

King’s ‘On writing’ isn’t a book I actually own but it’s one I would recommend. It isn’t a ‘how to’ book so much as a collection of memoires and observations taken from his writing life. 

It’s a couple of years since I read it but I do remember being gratified to discover that, like me, he writes to loud, fast music. However, we do differ in other ways, such as, now-lemme-see, he’s an internationally renowned bestselling author and I’m … not. And he writes every day. Even, he says in a tone somewhere between embarrassment and pride, on Christmas and his birthday. I don’t. I write most days, but I need the odd day off. And I try to schedule a couple of weeks in the year when I’m not obliged to write.

These weeks off tend to coincide with going away, partly for purely practical reasons like luggage allowances, and partly because I’ve decided that working on holiday is a sign of Not Having a Life. Ideally I aim for such spells out of t’garret to come when I’m shifting gears, writing-wise, such as between drafts, or when a book is in the planning stage. Holidays are a chance to let possibilities ferment in the subconscious without regularly sticking in the mental equivalent of a slotted spoon to fish them out and expose them to the air.

Allowing yourself the freedom not to write (or rather not to feel guilty about not writing) can be an excellent way of getting the ideas flowing. Although I may not turn on a computer during a ‘holiday’ week, I’m likely to write plenty of notes. I need to work this way, because there comes a point, if I really am writing every day, when the words run off the end of the inspiration, and that’s bad. Geniuses like Mr K might be able to turn out quality prose 365 days a year, but us lesser mortals need occasional breaks to let our brains cool down.  

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