Not Writing for all the Wrong Reasons

Not Writing for all the Wrong Reasons

I originally started this blog for the express purpose of forcing myself to write something (hence the name) as often as possible and hopefully with enough frequency to get myself into the habit of writing – a form of conditioning I had hoped would lead to inveterate writing and then ultimately, to transitioning into a career as an actual writer. But it hasn’t happened that way (at least not yet), and I have struggled to figure out why I can’t force myself to sit down and finish any of the half-dozen or so drafts I have started. But I’m not writing.  And I’m not writing for all the wrong reasons.

I figured it out today.  I don’t want to just write something “OK” or “good”. I want to write something brilliant. Some part of my ego wants to sit back after I hit the “Publish” button and wait for the accolades.  I want to have people blogging about my writing.  I want people to tweet about my blogs.  I want subscribers by the tens of thousands, waiting for my next offering, like I have waited for The Winds of Winter.

Reality struck today while I was sitting in a laundromat washing my underwear, towels and jeans.  Writing begets writing, and with practice (read: even more writing), it should (and usually does) get better.  I recently re-read Carrie – Stephen King’s very first published novel.  I just started reading Doctor Sleep (a sort-of sequel to The Shining) and the evolution and growth in King’s (already impressive) writing from 1975 to 2013 stunned and amazed me.  Unlike Carrie (which he wrote in a form called epistolary), in Doctor Sleep, his sentences are longer where they help to carry the reader through some complexity in the story, and perfunctory to perfection when it works to jolt the reader. King was 27 when he published Carrie. He was 66 when he published Doctor Sleep.  Since he published Carrie, King has published 34,000 pages of writing!  And this doesn’t count the pages he tossed in the round file, lost on bad floppy disks back in the 80’s, accidentally deleted from his word processor in the 90’s and more recently parked on a hard drive, waiting for completion some day.

That number – 34,000 pages – is staggering to me, so I did some math.  Since he published Carrie on April 5th, 1974 – 15,025 days have passed to date.  That works out to a little over 2.25 pages a day, every day, for the past 41 years.  But King has actually been quoted as saying that he writes 2,000 words per day every day, and that “… only under dire circumstances do I allow myself to shut down before I get my 2,000 words.”

I don’t know when this ritual started for him, but I’m not getting any younger and if I ever hope to write something worth publishing – something with even a fraction of the literary endurance of Carrie, or Watership Down, or any of the thousands of books by authors I revere, then I need to get my ass in gear and start writing every single day. Even if it sucks and no one reads it and I don’t get any feedback or accolades, I need to start to accept that with writing, the destination is the journey, and that writing for  me needs to be like eating or breathing; something I do for sustenance, and not necessarily for greatness.

One Reply to “Not Writing for all the Wrong Reasons”

  1. I really liked this Tom. It is a joy reading the work of someone who cherishes the act of writing and the subject matter more than his (or her!) ego. Good reminders to proceed with humility and discipline. If you haven’t read it already, you might like King’s “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft”. The big idea I took from that book: read a lot, write a lot. The first comes easy for me; the second takes more effort!

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