I recently read Stephen King’s memoir On Writing. Actually he read it to me, because I did the audio book (part of my routine as an outside sales rep is to use the drive-time wisely.) Reading this book also makes me the very last writer to read this book. I know, I know. “How can you call yourself a writer and you haven’t read On Writing.” I’m sorry. About 5 years ago I basically swore that I would write rather than read more books about writing and I hadn’t made it to his.
I’m not going to review it. It’s really good and every writer should check it out. There was a good piece of advice (of many) that I took to heart, even if I can’t put it into practice every day. I’ll paraphrase. He said aspiring writers should be working on their craft at least four hours per day. To this, I said, “Shit, if I had four hour per day I’d take up scuba diving or golf.” No, I didn’t really say that. But really, who with a full time job, kids and some semblance of a life has 4 hours to devote to something else? Well… I almost do. Sort of.
No, I don’t write for four hours a day. I’m lucky if I get in one or two hours at the end of the day, and many days I don’t write at all. And right now, I’m editing, so I’m not churning out words by the thousands. But, Mr. King also considers reading to be an important part of a writer’s development. He said, “A writer who says they don’t have time to read should (there were then a bunch of expletives) and give up.” Again, paraphrasing. Counting my reading time, I might actually be getting close to that daily 4 hours. I’ll explain.
First, I mentioned the audio books. This is cheating. It’s easy to get 2 hours of audio books in while I’m running around in my day job. I won’t even count this as a full two hours. Then there’s the TV time (about 90 minutes a night, give or take.) I’m not going to claim that I have any control over what comes on our TV after the kids go to bed. Lately, the person who picks those programs has an obsession with reruns of Dateline and 20/20 on the OWN (that’s the Oprah Winfrey Network to you singles.) I believe that this fixation is a direct result of the two weeks we spent taking in Making a Murderer (and neglecting personal hygiene.) Now we can get in the full Making a Murderer experience in 44 minutes and the crimes are usually much easier to solve. During this time, I edit my manuscript. Real work.
Then before bed I read – about an hour. I’ve already knocked out 4 or 5 books in 2016, form Dennis Lehane’s The Given Day (great), to Augusten Burroughs Running With Scissors (I usually won’t finish a book I hate, but I find this book to be so terrible, I’m still going to finish it and give it a full blog post, just to anger its fans.) Also, for reasons that I won’t get in to, I have developed a new habit of waking up at times like 4 am, and reading for an hour, then going back to sleep (and it’s awesome, I suggest it.)
So, by my count, I’m hitting my 4 hours of devotion to writing and reading. When I start writing my next novel, I’m going to have to convert more of this time to the actual act of writing, but reading a lot of fiction is imperative to writing good fiction. I just finished the audio book of The Martian and this is one that I highly recommend on audio (get an Aubible account and audio books are worth the money.) The voice given to the story by R.C. Bray really brought a story heavy on scientific language to life. (Same goes for the audio version of Gone Girl with the two narrative voices for the male and female characters, brilliantly read.)
No one has fours hours available in their day, waiting to be taken. But by using those little five, ten, and twenty minute increments, it’s not that hard. I just logged 30 putting this blog post up while my daughter recovered from what I call the Post Nap Blues (that time after she wakes from a Saturday nap when she shan’t be addressed directly.) Sorry, beautiful wife, I did not hang the curtains today. But Createspace just dropped $1.47 into our bank account. Have a… um… pack of gum.
By the way, check out my new every-other-week gig at Creative Loafing, where I’m bringing the gospel of Indie Publishing to the good people of the Tampa Bay region. Thanks for stopping by!
By day Jonathan Kile is a peddler of petroleum products, navigating a Glengarry Glen Ross landscape of cutthroat sales. By night he assumes the identity of novelist and child-wrangler. Jonathan’s first published novel The Grandfather Clock (available on Amazon.) He is writing his second and third novels, blogging at Well Oiled Writer and cursing his editor. You can email him here.