Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Writers on Writing

When my son was in 6th grade he discovered Stephen King.  Not when reading (or seeing) King's Carrie, but from his Dark Tower series and his book On Writing.  King's On Writing became a major force in my son's writing as it helped him establish a writing routine, taught him how not to use too many adverbs, motivated him to write 45 minutes every day (outside of his school requirements), and reinforced his avid reading appetite. For those of you who have not read On Writing, the first half of the book is autobiographical, the second half is a treasure trove of writing guidelines and tips.  King even provides a writing prompt and challenge. I highly recommend it.

I too am inspired by On Writing.  I like the idea of taking and incorporating master writers' inspirations and advice to motivate, encourage and reinforce our writing and our kids' writing skills.

So sit back and read/listen/look at what others suggest:

Stephen King: Routine and music (yes, music!) help motivate his 'hypnotic' state when writing.

Note that in this clip (with King and Niffenegger), each author has a writing routine one slightly more structured than the other.  I found it interesting that Stephen King's ritual involves a "path" to his writing "place" to get the that "hypnotic" state of writing.  I also found it interesting that Stephen King listens to hard rock music when writing.  BUT when discussed further, both King and Niffenegger note that the music has to be something they like and that is so familiar they don't hear the words.  The lyrics if they listened to them would interfere with their writing process.

This last point has come up so frequently in conversations with parents:  Can my child work and listen to music at the same time?  In my experience, there are kids (and adults) who need background noise when they work, as it actually helps them focus; others need silence.  (I like background noise, myself - what about you?). We are all so different, I am not sure there is one answer.  I do know this:  research is now showing that college kids actually CANNOT multitask successfully.  Background music though, is a different thing as it is not being consciously attended to.

Neil Gaiman:  Read a lot and live...and write.

Terry Pratchett talks about writing and how he began by writing parodies of other writers' (good and bad) works - in an effort to shape his voice and skills.

Taylor Mali advises to "Root your writing in things, things you can touch... we find our way to truths through things..."

Barbara Kingsolver: "...you have to see, smell, hear and taste a scene...and real life experience is really important... getting into the world... to evoke that sense of space... Literature is made of details... while you might begin with big ideas, you end up with millions of tiny details..."

Toni Morrison talks about writing about the feelings of the most vulnerable (so others will better understand) - and she assumed the voice of the black female children whom she felt were the most vulnerable:

Did you note the common themes:
  • These author always wrote - even as a kid.  One wrote in the margins of all the books he had, another kept a diary, another  wrote and doodled in a notebook.
  • These author had to find his or her own way to make integrate their writing and their experiences - to make the writing "real."
  •  These authors read avidly.
Not bad advice: read, live and make things real!

In closing two more clips.  One on famous last words, because... if they're your last, make them count!

And a final, a more traditional "inspirational" closing:

How did you discover the joy and power of writing? What do you do to inspire you or your kids to write?  Please let us know.


  1. This was a very interesting post. Writer on writing is a great choice for W.

  2. Excellent choice and a wonderful presentation!

  3. Great post. Happy WW.

    I played too. Mine are here and here.

  4. Wonderful advice Meryl, and I am frivolous enough to enjoy the famous last words!!

  5. I agree an excellent presentation

    Thanks for stopping by and have a great WW!:-)

  6. I like the quotes. Thanks for sharing.


  7. The videos are helpful! Your son must be a very good writer just like you!

    Would love you to peek at my ABC. You are welcome to come by anytime, have a nice day!

  8. thanks for the info Meryl! I guess I am a rambler when writing. same in talking, I probably give to much information! I did write when younger, but mostly poetry & very short stories. and I was an avid reader. My oldest son takes after those merits. with my medical problems these days I do not have the concentration to write consistently, but the main reason I blog is to keep my brain active & exercise it. when I see comments it feels like a hug or pat on the back that someone actually took the time to come & read. Again, thanks.~Faythe @GMT

  9. Very interesting article on Writing. Thanks for dropping by my ABC post.

  10. when I was in Primary school, we did not go to holidays, Dad made us (5 of us) write a composition a day. Did I enjoy writing? I was happy to please my Dad. Today, 1 teacher, 1 1 principal, one lawyer, one writer and one professor) we LOL about those times when Dad sat at his chair and read our work.

  11. Love the quotes and writers' advice clips.