Dawn Colclasure's Blog

Author and poet Dawn Colclasure

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

A lesson from Stephen King

I am not an early-riser but I woke up this morning at 5:30. It wasn’t my daughter climbing into bed that woke me up; it was a dream I just had. A dream in which I knew something very bad was about to go down so I got myself outta there.

In the dream, I was in a motel room, watching this show on TV. The show was an interview with Stephen King, where he talked about how he got the idea for his book The Shining and pretty much how he ended up writing it. He said that while he and his wife were staying at this hotel, he got the idea so he just sat down and wrote it. No reservations, no agonizing over what to name the characters, no wondering if it would sell. He just sat down and wrote it.

Yeah, I’ve read the story about how he wrote The Shining. But I never really paid so much attention to it until now, mainly because there’s so many ideas my Internal Editor keeps crumbling up and tossing into the mental trash can. Take yesterday, for example. I looked out the window next to the desk where I do my writing at and saw a car. I suddenly had the mental image of a character standing next to the car and there was something very wrong with him. Couldn’t put my finger on whatever it was – and I didn’t even try! I just let it go. Let the idea fade from my mind because I thought it wouldn’t turn into much of anything.

I have written unpublished novels before. And short stories. One thing I know is that, once you start writing and getting into a story, it takes on a life of its own. You can’t help but keep writing as the story unfolds in your mind, making your fingers fiercely continue typing as the words just start to “pour” through your skin.

Well, that’s what happens with me when I write fiction, anyway. I get “into the zone.”

But lately I keep throwing out ideas, thinking they won’t be any good, I can’t do anything with them, they won’t sell, etc.

And now this dream is our dear Mr. King reminding me that I shouldn’t worry about things like that so much. I should take my idea, sit down and start writing it! Forget about what kind of story it’ll be; just write the thing. Get it out of my head and onto paper. And even if it doesn’t sell, at least I will have written it. I didn’t throw it away; I wrote it.

I’m thinking once we writers get into the habit of passing on our ideas, it becomes a stable part of our workday. That Internal Editor suddenly gets on our payroll, ready to field each idea that appears. And that’s not exactly a good thing to happen! What we need to do is use our ideas and just write them down. Even if it goes nowhere, so what? Writing them down will tell us, without a doubt, whether or not our idea is a keeper.

And as for the bad part of the dream? I’d been standing next to an opened doorway. A shady character, an unshaven man with dark hair and a cigarette hanging out of his mouth, came up to the door then motioned with his chin that I should follow him. My first thought in a situation like that would be to close and lock the door, grateful the guy didn’t come tearing through it with a knife or something. But now that I don’t even know what would’ve happened next in the dream, maybe I’ll take King’s advice and write it down.


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