Author of eighty-six horror novels and counting, Stephen King, is a revered master of the craft of horror writing. He writes stories of the upmost eerie conditions and uncanny happenings, where the dead rise again and non-human objects become sentient, but it’s no mystery how the author of It, The Shining and Salem’s Lot publishes several books a year. He writes hard!
In his memoir, On Writing, King professed to striving for 2,000 words a day. And in a 2017 interview with George R.R. Martin, he reported that he had a daily goal of six well-polished pages. That’s a lofty goal indeed, and one that he clearly meets often as seen through his flowing river of new releases.
When Martin asked King if he ever gets writer’s block, this was his reply:
Martin: You don’t ever have a day where you sit down there and it’s like constipation? And you write a sentence and you hate the sentence, and you check your email and you wonder if you had any talent after all? And maybe you should have been a plumber? (Laughs) Don’t you have days like that?
King: No. I mean, there’s real life, I could be working away, and something comes up and you have to get up … but mostly I try to get the six pages in.
And that’s why Stephen King is the envy of all writers. However, he is human. In fact, he wasn’t so impervious to writer’s block as we all may have thought. When writing, The Stand (published in 1978) – a hugely famous dark fantasy novel in King’s repertoire about a pandemic powered by a weaponized version of the flu (does this sound relevant?) – King struggled to continue after reaching the 500 page mark.
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Without giving away too much of the plot, screenrant.com detailed King’s creative block as such:
Despite how successful he already was by that point, King was seriously concerned that he wouldn’t be able to pick the plot back up, and had to fight the urge to drop the book and move on to the next idea. Then, after an annoyingly long time spent trying madly to figure things out, the solution to King’s writer’s block hit all at once…. The good guys, such as they were, had proven too quick to try and rebuild the society that had led them to the apocalypse in the first place, instead of trying to build a new, better world, and carrying out the will of the God who spared them from the plague. This led King to his solution.
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I’m sure that every writer out there takes comfort in hearing of King’s human infallibility, and his natural set-backs as a writer. We all can relate to that blinking cursor, that infuriating white space on the screen (or page) and that numbing white noise in our heads. But even more encouraging, through this story, is the reveal of how King broke through his writer’s block. He stopped struggling and ramming forward; he sat back and stared at his story from another angle, another perspective, and the characters told him where he went wrong.
King then was able to make his horror novel even more horrifying. Instead of writer’s block being his curse, or a cue for him to quit, it became a boon for an even better terrifying tale. All writers out there should take note, not just from King’s dedication to the craft in writing an average of six pages a day, but also from his weaknesses. We all can learn and grow from our own white noise as well.
Don’t give up!
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