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Wednesday, May 13, 2015

5 things I learned from Stephen King about writing and about life

1. Be true to what's IN you.

When King first saw the little deer caught in a forest fire in the movie Bambi, he was terrified and thrilled at the same time.  He's unashamedly always been drawn to horror and he thinks it's fun to use that fascination to scare others through his writing.  He's not afraid to specialize in something that others might consider a little bit unrespectable and it obviously works for him.  He's sold over 350 million books and is worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

Bring out your passions through writing.  It will be cathartic and others will be drawn to your energy.  I love to travel and I love history and politics.  In my current book series, my hero gets to do both those things, and he gets to do both at the same time: travel around the world in history.  It makes my job very enjoyable, and when you're having fun others will want to join in.

My mantra is to live my life with passion.  And that doesn't mean a particular behavior - like in the soap operas or something.  It means to live life in a way that you're involved in things you have a passion for.  For instance, I recently discovered that I love mountain biking.  And so I try to do it regularly.  I'm passionate about my family, so I stay home with my kids.  I know that everyone can't do this, no judgement, but lots of times we go without because I'm not working (I'm not talking about food or shelter, here.  Just glamorous vacations and stuff) but it's worth it to me to be with my kids every day.  I'm passionate about writing, so I'm making the leap to become a successful author (the best part is I can do this while I'm home with my kids) even though it's scary as hell sometimes.  I love to be active -- jumping out of planes, hiking, swimming, climbing waterfalls, jumping into pools of water, you know, whatever.  Just do it!  Cuz sitting around all day looking at a computer screen isn't living---unless that's something you're passionate about.
Do what's IN you.

2.  Don't be afraid of critics.

Stephen King has had countless critics, even cartoons drawn of him eating money.  That doesn't stop him from sticking to his guns.  Of literary critic Harold Bloom, he said, "He's one of them, who take their ignorance about popular culture as a badge of intellectual prowess."  He's not afraid to punch back, or just ignore them.

Currently on Amazon, the first Harry Potter book has 143 1 star reviews.  Book 7 in the series has 162 one star reviews.  And those are just her amateur reviewers.  She's got a lot more professional critical reviews, not to mention libraries banning her books because of her magical elements.  Now, that's nothing compared to her positive reviews but still, if you focus on the negative things that other people say, you will get discouraged easily.  If someone criticizes your work, then take it as a compliment that something you wrote made them passionate enough against it enough to say something.  And thus, you've inspired passion in others.

When we stay true to ourselves, in everything we do, we attract the best people to us.  They will like us for who we are, and maybe even, have the same quirkiness.  And even if they're not, they will still be genuine in their friendship.  Because they will like your genuineness.  Sometimes we're afraid to be ourselves in front of others because we see our faults like: ugly, fat, gay, weird, dark or whatever and we think that others won't like us.  Well, you might be right.
 Of course! Not everyone likes everyone.  Look at politicians: no matter how hard they try, they just can't get everyone to like them.  But, if we stay true to ourselves, then we will be happier because we're not fighting against our true nature and we'll be around others who like us for who we really are inside.
And guess what: if you just try it out you may find that others like you better, weird quirks and all.

3.  Take a break

When Stephen King was younger, he would write every day for six months to get out what's in his head.  Then he would make himself stop for 10-12 days to let things settle.  Today he spends a few hours writing and revising it and then turns it off.  He attributes this slower schedule to getting older.  (Don't let that fool you, in 2014 he wrote 3 books, a screenplay and a musical)

After writing for about 9 hours in my dungeon the other day, my brain felt like it was going to burst!  Even though I'm a new writer, I take it very seriously.  But sometimes, you just gotta take a break.  I recommend meditation of some kind.  But getting out of the story for a time is like turning off your phone.  Sometimes you need a reboot.  Taking a break can help with writer's block, see a new perspective on your writing, solve a problems you're having or have new ideas that will blow your book up.  Something about not thinking about your book makes it even better.

In today's world, we never turn off our gadgets.  Ever.  We obsess over battery life.  I am the absolute worst at this.  If I sit down to eat, I'm looking at my phone, or my computer.  If I'm waiting in the car for some reason, I pull it out.  And when we do this, it creates a buzz in the back of our brain.  We're constantly receiving information, our brains are constantly working.  And it Just. Never. Stops.  I'm sorry, but that's just not good for us.  This creates a build up of stress in our minds.  Eventually we become quick to anger and we take it out on our friends, coworkers, family and the guy who cuts us off in the road.
About a year ago, I came across a book called, The Wooden Bowl, and it taught me how to meditate.  I loved this book because it taught me that meditation can be very simple and can be done anywhere. When you think of meditation, a lot of people think of yoga retreats or a man sitting in a room humming.  Actually it's not.  A meditation can be many things, but one thing it is is just a rest for your brain.  You can either clear your mind and focus on your breathing, or you can live in the moment and just let your thoughts go through you without really concentrating on them (or worrying about them!), or you can try to imagine a serene setting.  You can take just 2 minutes to do this and it will help.
When I started doing this, it made a HUGE HUGE difference in my life.  My stress levels went down.  Now, what I find myself doing is going somewhere quiet.  Where no one will talk to me.  Sometimes it's in a (safe) random parking lot facing an field or something, it doesn't matter that much where.  I just need it to be quiet.  And I sit there until I feel calm and peaceful.  It usually takes me about an hour but it just depends.  And afterwards, I feel ready to be the good mommy (instead of the cranky monster mommy) again.  Try it!  I promise, you will like it.

4.  No matter what, the fear of failure doesn't go away.  So don't let that stop you.

King said that he's always having dreams about failure.  For instance, he dreams that it's opening night of a play and he hasn't got his costume or memorized his lines.  When asked if he still afraid of failure after all these years of success he said, "Sure.  I'm afraid of all kinds of things.  I'm afraid of failing at whatever story I'm writing - that it won't come up for me, or that I won't be able to finish it."

JK Rowling said that she still worries that she will push some magic button and all her money will disappear.  Elizabeth Gilbert, the writer of Eat, Pray, Love said that when she sat down to write her second book, she was very worried that the success of her first book was just a fluke of nature.  Everyone worries but successful people don't let those worries stop them from what they're doing.  Persistence is key and learn to keep the negative voices in your head in a very small corner of your mind.  They'll come out to play every once and a while, but then you need to ignore them.  One way you can do this is by lying to yourself, tell yourself that you are successful, you are brilliant, or whatever is the opposite of what the negative voices are telling you.  Keep working at your dreams and don't ever give up.  Only get better.

5.  Let your soul bleed...

When King writes, he hurts mentally.  It gives him a headache.  Sometimes he's got so much in him that it feels like his "head [is] going to burst."

He gives in to the emotions of the writing and it pains him physically and mentally.  That's when you know that you're writing something good.  Is it making you cry?  Is it making you laugh?  Good.  Then you know others will too.

Why is showing our vulnerabilities so scary?  That's something that is incredibly difficult to do.  I work on it in my blogging.  When I blogged about my sister's bipolar, I was so nervous.  I don't even know why.  It is something so... incredibly difficult to deal with emotionally for me.  She is so dear to me, even though I don't tell her that often enough, and to just lay it all out there...  When I hit publish, I felt like I was baring my soul to the world.  I still can't blog about something else very very difficult for me.  I can't even write it here.  Because every time I think about writing about it, it get's stuck in my throat and tears sting my eyes and the hole in my chest rips back open.
And yet, it's honest.
What are your favorite books / songs / blogs?  Sure, there are some really great fun ones out there, but the ones who really touch you, ones that really mean something to you, are the ones that are really honest.  They touch us to the core and speak to our inner soul.  If we want to reach others, in a real way, we have to let our souls bleed for them.

Read more about Stephen King's family, addiction and beliefs on God and Evil here.
Photo credit.

My name is Fleur.  And this is my blog.
Read my book here.

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