Be Inspired (Stephen King On Writing)

It’s a new year!

New is wonderful.  New is fresh.  New is inspiring.  In this case, new is also cold.  Very, very cold.  But that’s the way it goes.  New is unpredictable.  It’s uncontrollable.  That’s the whole point.  It’s new.  Equal parts scary and exciting, uncomfortable and inspiring.

Let’s talk about inspiration.  Inspiration is what we need.

I’ve never understood why we take a look at a fresh new calendar and make RESOLUTIONS.  (They always seem grim and all-caps to me, just like that.)  I am DETERMINED to do better.  I am RESOLVED to grit my teeth and do all the things.  No wonder they don’t last.  Gritting your teeth is terrible for the jaw and in time will lead to headaches.

Why make RESOLUTIONS when we can make aspirations?  Aspirations (always written just so, of course, with emphasis because we are serious about this and leaning just a little bit forward because we are yearning for it, stretching out to take hold of it) are those things we pull out of the wish bin, dust off, and decide to make a reality.  We are setting our sails in this direction, and what we need right now is the wind of inspiration to spur us on, not a list of rules to beat us about the head.  I’m not saying it won’t be hard work.  I’m not saying there won’t be times of calm where we have to choice to but row until our hands blister.  But the more inspiration we have, the quicker we find ourselves where we want to be.

What inspires you?  Who inspires you?  Let’s take some time this winter and fill ourselves up with inspiration.

Some of my aspirations may not be the same as yours, so some of my inspirations may impact you less than they do me. Others I think we’ll find are universal to us all. In both cases, I hope you are spurred on to find your own inspirations, to tilt your sails into the wind.

Today I’m starting small.  I’m starting practical. With this little book.

I’ll tell you straight, I’m not a fan of horror, and I would never have thought to look to Stephen King for inspiration. I grant you that The Stand is a classic worth reading, but most of his other stuff (including all but a few portions of The Dark Tower has left me flat.


I read On Writing when I was first daring to write for real, and it made this whole ridiculous aspiration seem just a little more doable. I read it again recently, and it inspired me to stay on the long hard path. And whenever aspiring writers ask me about writing, this is the book I send them to. It has impacted my own writing process more than any other, including lovely, quotable books by authors I love, like Madeleine L-Engles (whose book Walking on Water is like music to read).

Stephen King taught me about writing the first draft all the way through without stopping to edit and then letting it rest several weeks before picking it up to do the hard work of cutting and rearranging. This bit of advice has made it possible for me to actually finish books instead of just starting them.

Stephen King taught me about the importance of cutting out all my beloved and unnecessary adverbs. He taught me to keep it simple. Other people had told me these things, but he mocked them so mercilessly, that I finally saw the light. My writing is so much better for it. (The stuff I edit, at least. This old blog doesn’t get such tender brutal treatment.)

Stephen King gave me permission to use my talented friends as an editing team, which is why my books have made it to publication instead of staying locked up in my computer files.

And this. This blurb from the back cover is the real reason I love this book.


“For years I dreamed of having the sort of massive oak slab that would dominate a room…. In 1981 I got the one I wanted and placed it in the middle of a spacious, skylighted study in the rear of the house. For six years I sat behind that desk either drunk or wrecked out of my mind….
A year or two after I sobered up, I got rid of that monstrosity and put in a living-room suite where it had been…. In the early nineties, before they moved on to their own lives, my kids sometimes came up in the evening to watch a basketball game or a movie and eat pizza…. I got another desk – it’s handmade, beautiful, and half the size of the T. rex desk. I put it at the far west end of the office, in a corner under the eave…. I’m sitting under it now, a fifty-three-year-old man with bad eyes, a gimp leg, and no hangover. I’m doing what I know how to do, and as well as I know how to do it. I came through all the stuff I told you about…and now I’m going to tell you as much as I can about the job….
It starts with this: put your desk in the corner, and every time you sit down there to write, remind yourself why it isn’t in the middle of the room. Life isn’t a support system for art. It’s the other way around.”

That inspires me, people. That’s real and it’s true and it’s absolutely what I aspire to be about this year and in my life moving forward. And you don’t have to be a writer for the truth of that last line to ring through your day to day life.

Sail on, friends, and may even the cold, cold winds be ones of inspiration.



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