Poetry and personal blog – Spilling my guts to strangers

The Words of Stephen King

I have Stephen King to thank for this particular blog post.

Among my major influences as a writer–which include two novelists, a poet, and a visual artist–King may seem to be the unlikeliest. But an entire section of one of my bookcases is dedicated to his work.

This is one of those days where I’m feeling a little unmotivated and I don’t feel like doing any real writing. (I consider blogging to be real writing, by the way.) Some would say I was “uninspired.” When I am uninspired, I think of Stephen King.

Stephen King Influence #1:  You shouldn’t wait to be inspired to write.
King is wildly prolific and at his height, you could expect a Stephen King novel at least once a year, if not more often. It got to the point where he used a pseudonym so that he could still be published and not worry about overexposure in the book market.

King probably has more energy and drive than many of us but the secret to his output is not about the “inspiration.” It’s about writing regularly even if there is no inspiration to be had.

I remember him talking about his writing ritual, which involved going into his home office and writing for eight hours a day, every day. Until then, I had considered creative writing to be largely driven by emotional response. Hearing it from King and having that notion reinforced by others over time, I fully understand that good writing is not all in the ideas but in the practice of the craft and in doing the work. I would also add that it is just as important to read others’ work with the eye of a writer and to study formal mechanics. Rarely is the first draft as good as it’s going to get; often the beauty and shape of a piece is revealed during rounds and rounds of self editing

Stephen King Influence #2: It’s ok to be thoroughly modern and accessible.
King writes a column for my favorite magazine, Entertainment Weekly, called “The Pop of King.” In it, he gives his opinion not just about books, but also music, television, movies, societal trends, and anything having to do with pop culture. Stephen King has long been the King of Pop Culture.

King’s novels are riddled with topical pop culture references and as an omniscient narrator, King often makes liberal use of slang. These devices are his trademarks and much of his appeal to readers. He has even found ways to refer to himself as a pop culture icon in his own novels!

As a writer who wants to be read, I think that finding a way to connect to readers is almost as important as what I write about. Particularly as a poet, I don’t think that language has to be limited to highbrow vocabulary or classical references.  I wonder, as others have, whether time will be kind to King’s legacy or whether his appeal is unique to today’s readers. Actually, he is no different from any other writer in that all are products of their era. If their work is worthy enough to stand the test of time, we will go to the trouble of understanding it in context.

Stephen King Influence #3: Transparency takes many forms.
King has been very candid about many aspects of his life, including his childhood and as an adult, his substance abuse. Also, over the years, he has been forthcoming with writing advice, not only in his nonfiction works Danse Macabre and On Writing, but also in the forewords of his novels. In essence, he is not afraid to share with even the casual reader tricks of the trade.

Within the novel Misery, the character Paul Sheldon writes a nonfiction book in between novels on the craft of writing. In that book, he says that a story should not hinge on a random event that doesn’t follow the logic of the rest of the story. (This plot detail was not featured in the movie.) But even on a deeper level, some have speculated as to whether Paul was modeled after King himself, and whether the terrifying meeting between Paul and his “biggest fan” during the course of the novel was King’s commentary on the burdens of being a tremendously popular author. The novella, The Body, on which the movie “Stand By Me” was based, was said to have been partially autobiographical.

For someone who writes so much, is it possible not to have pieces of himself exposed on the pages? Even in writing that is not necessarily personal, I appreciate work that shows intellectual or emotional honesty.

*******

Whew, I did it.

Speaking of drive and inspiration, I leave you with Bobby McFerrin performing “Drive” live.

© Sweepy Jean and Sweepy Jean Explores the (Webby) World, 2011

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Comments on: "The Words of Stephen King" (22)

  1. good post…great motivation for me in my own writing 🙂 I want to read his book…the dome. i think that’s what it’s called. i’ve never read his books, but that one just looked really interesting 🙂

    • Thanks, Jill! Yes, Under the Dome. I haven’t read that one yet but it’s waiting for me! When Stephen King is good, he’s very good. He’s a master of plot but a lot of his newer stuff sometimes relies on plot without getting into character. Try Dome out, but I also recommend The Stand, which I understand has some similarities, and anything else from the 80’s and early 90s. I liked the 2002 short story collection Everything’s Eventual. Also, Dumas Key from 2008 is not bad.

  2. Brilliant Post! My personal quote for writing is, “Waiting for inspiration as a writer is much akin to a ditch digger waiting to sweat befor he works.” And yeah, I do use phrases like Much akin in real life LOL. I’m glad you are back blogging regularly…I missed your voice. ❤

    • Thanks on all counts, Lisa, especially for your use of the word “akin!” 😉 And it is so true, we have to put in the work first before we get the result. xox

  3. […] this link: The Words of Stephen King Related Posts:Famous Words of Stephen King | From the Past into the Future Famous Words of Stephen […]

  4. I love how you talk about being unmotivated and uninspired and then you go and write something like this 🙂 I was a big fan of Stephen King through my late teenage years but also James Herbert but I lost my love for their books through two books that I just tried and tried and could not get through. Kings – Insomnia and Herberts – The Ghosts of Sleath. I thought maybe I had just outgrown the style of writing. I haven’t tried anything new since Insomnia but your post has inspired me to put my old reservations aside, I’ll let you know which book I decide on and you can give me your take on it.

    • I hadn’t heard of James Herbert until now, but definitely the quality of King’s later books are uneven, but there are some good ones.. I wasn’t thrilled with Insomnia either. Sure, let me know! 🙂

  5. warm, revealing, engaging, grabs the readers attention, thought provoking and alarmingly true .. that’s sweepy jean

  6. I’ve always admired his work. This was a great post & really inspiring. I guess you did #1, you wrote even though you didn’t feel “inspired” or motivated to write & look at the great results! 🙂

    • Anahid!! Hi, long time no see! Yes, that really was the case and sticking with it was a struggle. I had already put it off one day and was thinking about putting it off some more. But to get anything accomplished and to become a better writer, it takes work! Thanks so much for stopping by and I hope to see you some more in the future!

  7. This is good advice! I really like the one about writing even when you’re NOT inspired…. just write! LOL. I’ve read one book by him (Eye of the Dragon) and really enjoyed it. Honestly, I figured it was going to be a good read anyway b/c he wrote it. hehe

  8. Stephen King’s my man! I believe some of his work will indeed stand the test of time. The Shawshank Redemption, in my humble opinion, is a masterpiece. I’m with you on,”I don’t think that language has to be limited to highbrow vocabulary or classical references.” So glad to find someone else who feels the same.
    I do believe that transparency in writing is a must, otherwise it lacks authenticity.
    Fabulous post! Well worth the read.

  9. Love this! Stephen King has always been my favorite and I have almost every single story he has ever written. When my 7th grade teacher first introduced me to “Christine” I was hooked and that’s been it ever since. I even got to meet him once! I’ve always wanted to be a writer too.

    • Wow, that must have been exciting! He’s really tall, right? You had a cool teacher. (Sorry, I’m responding so late. I don’t know how I missed this!)

  10. Thanks for putting these together. I think I read Influence #1 3 or 4 times before it sunk in…this makes so much sense!

    • We are so brainwashed to think we need inspiration that hearing otherwise is a shock to the system. At least that was true for me! 🙂 Thanks, Bonnie!

  11. Whoo! Love Bobby McFerrin! Thanks for posting this video, Sweepy — hadn’t seen him in a long time. 🙂

    Back to S. King …

    “Good writing is not all in the ideas but in the practice of the craft and in doing the work.”

    I hate to admit it out loud, but that statement is truer than true. I especially hate to admit it since I’m a blogger (yeah, bloggers are real writers) because I lean WAY toward the other end of the spectrum from most bloggers. Since high school (you know, about a hundred years ago), I’ve always enjoyed and embraced “creative writing” — writing that focuses hard and heavy on IDEAS – not so much the practice of the craft or the work of writing.

    Still in all, Stephen King is right. Practice. Practice. Practice. And then practice some more to master the craft.

    • My apologies for not responding to your comment right away. I meant to but was sidetracked. It was not intentional. I’m glad you enjoyed the video, I think he’s great. As you say, mastering the craft of writing take practice … and discipline. Thank you for your thoughtful comment.

  12. Thanks for this link from my story, Adrienne. If anyone here wants to read it and chime in (is this ok? if not, delete the post): http://wp.me/p1mecg-5P (not so much) Fun with Dick and Jane. I used a prompt Mr. King wrote about in “On Writing”.

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