“I believe plotting and the spontaneity of real creation aren’t compatible. It’s best that I be as clear about this as I can–I want you to understand that my basic belief about the making of stories is that they pretty much make themselves. The job of the writer is to give them a place to grow (and to transcribe them, of course).” (Stephen King, On Writing)
I have spent the past few days reading Stephen King’s On Writing at the recommendation of my instructor/guide through this book journey that I have begun. On Writing has been on my list, but I never really pursued it because I don’t always love King’s writing. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve read several of his books and been drawn in and terrified, but he also has written a few that I’ve started and just cannot finish (and for a while I was the person who had to finish every book I ever started). However, based on my instructor’s recommendation, I plunged into this book which is combination memoir and writing guide only to discover a kindred spirit in terms of King’s approach to writing.
He has opened the door to possibilities for me.
When I signed up for this writing course I was hesitant, because I knew from the outset that there would be a heavy emphasis on plotting and outlining. Not that I am against those things, exactly, but I struggle with working on any piece of writing based off of an outline. Much of my best writing comes when I sit at the keyboard and just write, letting the characters or the subject guide me. I’m not saying that my writing is perfect, and this method often requires multiple edits, but for me the initial burst of language gets me further than careful plotting and planning. Sometimes, when I plot and plan, I find myself stuck trying to get from point A to point B to point Z in an organic way. Please understand that I am not criticizing writers who approach material this way, because every writer needs to find the method that works best for him/her, but I struggle sometimes maybe because I am not completely sure where my story is heading.
After reading King, I feel much better about allowing my characters to tell me the story as they live it, rather than forcing the story into some sort of manufactured shape.How this will play out in the coming months while I work my way through this course is yet to be seen, but I feel like I have been given permission to follow my own instincts as an artist, and that is a gift.
As a theatre director, I work very organically, by coming up with a general concept for a production (and having an end goal in mind) but allowing and trusting my actors and designers to find the natural way to the end point. In many ways, it seems, my approach to writing and to theatre reflect on each other. I can only create the way instinct tells me to create.
I feel like I’ve been given permission to . . .
- close the door and write a “shitty first draft” (I know that is not from King. King advocates that the first draft be for the writer, and the second draft be for the reader).
- allow the story to tell itself
- provide only enough description to spark the reader’s imagination
- write with honesty, even characters who scare me because they are so different from me
- write the story first, and then figure out its meaning
- write the story I want to and need to write, and not worry about whether or not it will ever be published.
- and to relish the journey of writing magic
“Writing is magic, as much the water of life as any other creative art. The water is free. So drink.
Drink and be filled up.” (Stephen King, On Writing)
What words do you need to read/hear to inspire you to just write? What is your approach to writing?