Stephen King’s On Writing
"When you write a story, you're telling yourself the story. When you rewrite, your main job is taking out the things that are not the story."
Sometime after Easter in 2009, I contracted a case of writer’s block. I didn’t know it at the time. Like many maladies it didn’t immediately announce itself. I continued to write as though nothing was amiss--until I started to notice something. Nothing I wrote was any good. Not a single story was worthy of the effort I was putting in. I kept scrapping them after three to five chapters to start something totally new, only to have that story suffer the same fate. I simply wasn’t inspired by my own words. The joy of writing was gone, to be replaced by a horrible, insidious fear that annihilated my creativity. The fear of not selling, of not being good enough, of never living up to my own expectations.
When I finally realised (after around 18 months of insisting all I needed was a serious chunk of time in which to work) that I had a problem, I took a step away from the computer. I read novels, watched movies, played with my kids and baked cookies. I started to see things more clearly. I had so much going on in my life. A day job, a family, friends and Cadbury chocolate. The realisation came to me that if I never had another book published I’d still have a rich and fulfilling life. Ironically, it was when I finally realised I didn’t need writing to complete me that I at last felt able to embrace it again.
It was at this time that I bought a copy of Stephen King’s On Writing, a book which restored my faith in my own vision and made me realise all my problems could be boiled down to one stark fact: I was afraid.
After close to two years of writer's block, to read the words "The scariest moment is always just before you start. After that, things can only get better" made me realise the main thing holding me back from finishing a book was fear. I was afraid it wouldn't be good, that the plot would tie me in knots and I'd lose patience with it, afraid I was wasting my time. Fear is no friend to creativity my fellow writers. It is creativity’s arch enemy.
Another enemy of creativity is guilt. The famous King quote reads: "If you don't have time to read, you don't have time to write." A part of a writer's job it to READ. It is RESEARCH. This seems logical enough, but it's easy when you have such limited writing time to get bogged down in guilt when you spend some of that time reading someone else's work instead of crafting your own. Don’t let the guilts get you. If the writing isn’t working, go read. Refill the well and start again another day, another hour.
Which brings me to another thing this book taught me. King states: “Life isn't a support system for art. It's the other way around." Writing is not the most vital thing in your life. It's not. Really. IT'S NOT THAT IMPORTANT. Your family, your REAL life is what's important. Writing can totally consume you and sometimes, when you're on a roll, that's a good thing. The rest of the time go be with your family, go for a swim or to a movie. Keep it in perspective and stop beating yourself up for not being Tolstoy.
Toward the end of 2010 I grabbed a notebook and pen and began writing a story. I had no idea what it was or where it was going but the deal I made with myself was to finish it no matter what, even if it really did suck. In order to do that I put the very idea of publishing it out of my mind. By using ye olde fashioned pen and paper I felt like I was transported back to those days when I’d hide my notebooks inside school texts and write with absolutely no plan, simply because I wanted to do that more than anything else. The absence of that intimidating concept of publication took all the fear out of the process.
It took a year of writing and re-writing and critiquing and submitting (ok so I decided to try and publish it after all J), receiving at first a ‘no’ from my editor, and more rewrites until finally the book was accepted for publication with Samhain Publishing. Erica’s Choice will be released in August 2012, and I couldn’t be more proud of the final result. It’s the book I wrote when my writer’s self was learning to walk again, and if it’s not a bestseller or never receives a favourable review, it will still be one of my hardest-won, proudest achievements. Thanks to Stephen King’s book, I won’t forget that my own sense of achievement is what really matters.
WOW - that's a heart-warming story Sami. HUGE congrats on ERICA'S CHOICE - I can't wait to read it. And thanks for the very important reminder about what really matters in life!!
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Covers of Sami's gorgeous backlist are below. You can read about all these books and purchase them here :)