Friday, May 14, 2010


I read Stephen King's book on writing not too long ago. I admire his work ethic as a writer and his struggle to write the best he can. He says a writer should find three or four hours a day to do some combination of reading and writing. Of course, he doesn’t have a day job, so it may be that your job stops you from finding that much time. Some days mine does.

But you do need to find time to write. In my opinion it needs to be almost every day, even if you only find thirty minutes to write. Even if you only write a few good sentences. Notice, I say write. That has to come first. I write and read most days, but if I don’t have time for both, it’s the reading that I don't get to. You have to read, yes, but you shouldn’t allow reading to take the place of writing.

What I’m getting at it is there’s a trap with reading. Sometimes a writer will read a couple of hours and manage to convince himself that he’s done his writing work for that day by reading. He counts the reading as writing since he knows it makes him a better writer. But reading won’t fill pages. It will raise the quality of your work, but only writing fills pages. It’s great if you read a hundred books in a year, but if you want to be a writer the real goal is that you write one .

My other point about writing is that getting to the “writing place” where you can pour out words is easier if you open that door every day. The door begins to stick for me after only one or two days of not opening it. After a week, it can be a real struggle. Two weeks and I might need a chainsaw to get through it. Write and read fiction. It's simple in a way. Nothing will make you a better writer than to write and read fiction. Ultimately, though a writer is a writer because he or she writes. In my humble opinion, writing nearly every day not only leads to a finished manuscript it makes writing itself, getting to that place where writing comes from, easier.


Shoshana said...

I agree that frequency of writing is often more important than the amount of time at each stretch. Yes, long stretches are a great way to really engage with the work, and I find that breakthroughs tend to happen after the first fifteen minutes or so. But even when I don't have real time, spending a few minutes with my characters is enough to touch base and make sure my mind is still with them, which makes me readier to really write the next day.

Brian Yansky said...

I'm with you. I know there are "binge" writers that do good work that way, but I think they're the exception. Also, I think that when they are writing they're writing with the kind of frequency that helps them connected to the work--even if there are some longer periods when they don't write at all.