Weekend Workshop/Discussion

This might be more of a discussion than workshop but I recently read Stephen King’s On Writing and I noted down a million and one things he said and I want to talk about them a little at a time.

If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut. (145)

This makes perfect sense to me. Whether you read good prose or bad, fiction or non, you are learning the skill, the art, the process, as you read. This cannot help but transfer to the words you write. And the more you write the better you must get from sheer practice.

10, 000 hours=mastery.

You cannot hope to sweep someone else away by the force of your writing until it has been done to you. (146)

I’m not sure about this one. Mainly because I think what sweeps one person away irritates another.  Just because you are swept off your feet by a sparkly day glow vampire stalker doesn’t mean I won’t drive a stake through his heart first chance I get.

If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time or the tools to write. Simple as that. (147)

Ok but….

The sort of strenuous reading and writing program I advocate – four to six hours a day, every day (150)

And here is where he loses me. So if I can’t find four-six hours a day to read and write I am not a writer. Or I don’t have the tools to be a writer? Isn’t that a bit rigid? Who says I have to do the 10, 000 hours in one year? If it takes me five years, am I any less a master? Or maybe this just rubs me the wrong way because it’s an impossibility for me now in this place in my life and I don’t want to give up my efforts because I can’t meet his impossible guidelines.

Thoughts on how much time one should devote to reading and writing to be a writer? Do you think reading is an key aspect of writing?

7 thoughts on “Weekend Workshop/Discussion

  1. I seem to be writing, reading, talking, listening, thinking, or sleeping 99% of the time. If King reads 70 books a year, I hope one of them is mine some day. I will never read or write as much as he does. I write because I am a writer, and I am a writer because I write. I wannabe better and I am learning, but I think King’s take is kind of snobish and heavy on ego. However, for his income, I am willing to change my schedule. Yes, we should read. In my case, more. I did enjoy the book.

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  2. When a person buys or reads Stephen King’s _On Writing_, they are essentially asking for his advice or his guidance on how to be successful (really, financially successful) at the art. To call into question as “snobbish” or “heavy on ego” (with all due respect to pluviolover) his take on what makes someone in this field successful when he’s the one who’s been consistently at the top of the New York Times Bestseller’s List for about four decades is, in my estimation, naive arrogance in its own right. These are the things that have worked for King: a daily diet of reading and writing for four to six hours a day. These are the things that have placed a fat royalty check in his account and caviar on his table. Will they, without fail, work for everyone? No. In the same way that the techniques of the Dutch Masters didn’t work for Picasso, so too will King’s advice not fit everyone’s lifestyle, art style, voice, or even genre. But, if you’re Picasso, you likely didn’t need to ask the Dutch Masters for advice in the first place.

    That said, I think that the point of the lesson (the spirit if not the specifics) is that one cannot do anything without a degree of dedication. If one is to be a writer, one must write, and one must read–because it is through reading that we see how the process of writing happens effectively. Or, one would hope effectively.

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  3. I must have read Stephen King’s’On Writing’ at least half a dozen times now and I don’t remember anything that irritated me or didn’t ring true, at least in terms of concept and commitment, as for hours and time put in well that’s conditional, we all have different circumstances and very few have his talent, not just the words, but the imagination. This is the single book that got me started writing but in no way do I see it as absolute, I read for pleasure and write for pleasure too, I’m not driven to succeed, I’ve done that in another sphere, what will be will be.

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  4. I read King’s book “On Writing” too. I understand the 10k hours reference. I remember reading about mastery in Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Outliers”. That said, I agree with you, it doesn’t happen overnight, or all in one year. I did enjoy King’s thoughts on plot and endings…neither being required to start your story. I once heard an author talk about how her characters “haunt” her and demand that their stories be told. Although I’ve just dipped my toe into the water of the writing world I understand what both she and King are talking about. I’m already haunted and bombarded with ideas and characters that won’t leave me alone. Stories that want to be told. I hope I live long enough to hit the 10K mark for both reading and writing! Thanks for an inspiring post!

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  5. I don’t have that much time to read, but I do spend a lot of time in my car so I “read” via audiobooks. At the moment that’s only about 4 hours every weekday. More if reading WordPress posts count, which idk if King would feel counts.

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  6. I am in the process of reading On Writing and have just reached the part about adverbs and I must admit that I’m a bit intimidated by his book so far. 😕 I’m honestly feeling as though anything I’ve ever written or could ever write is and will be inadequate. I do feel as though Mr. King offers some really good writing advice, but I also agree that works for one writer may not work for another. When I write I honestly don’t want to worry about adverbs or many of the other points Mr. King touches on. I just want to write and I worry that now I’m going to be anxious about the technicalities of writing and unable to actually write. 😕

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