Stephen King on motivation

March 4, 2013 by Joshua
in Art, Blog

An early piece of advice many starting writers hear is to read Stephen King’s On Writing. He is best known for his horror and fantasy writing, selling more than 350 million books (putting me only about 350 million books behind him), but writers know this short book of his as one of the most helpful books on writing. Ironically, In 2008, Entertainment Weekly listed On Writing 21st on their list of The New Classics: Books – The 100 best reads from 1983 to 2008, making it King’s only entry, according to Wikipedia.

I wanted to comment on what he wrote on his motivation to write. Quoting him

One more matter needs to be discussed, a matter that bears directly on that life-changer and one that I’ve touched on already, but indirectly. Now I’d like to face it head-on. It’s a question that many people ask in different ways — sometimes it comes out polite and sometimes it comes out rough, but it always amounts to the same: Do you do it for the money, honey?

The answer is no. Don’t now and never did. Yes, I’ve made a great deal of dough from my fiction, but I never set a single word down on paper with the thought of being paid for it. I have done some work as favors for friends — logrolling is the slang term for it — but at the very worst, you’d have to call that a crude kind of barter. I have written because it fulfilled me. Maybe it paid off the mortgage on the house and got the kids through college, but those things were on the side — I did it for the buzz, I did it for the pure joy of the thing. And if you can do it for joy, you can do it forever.

There have been times when for me the act of writing has been a little act of faith, a pit in the eye of despair. The second half of this book was written in that spirit. I gutted it out, as we used to say when we were kids. Writing is not life, but I think that sometimes it can be a way back to life.

How many of today’s CEOs making 500 times the average pay within their company or political leaders would answer similarly? What is your motivation for what you do? Do you love your work as much?

By the way, he overcame similar challenges to the ones I wrote about the past couple days with actors.

He also wrote in the FAQ section of his site

Why did you become a writer?

The answer to that is fairly simple-there was nothing else I was made to do. I was made to write stories and I love to write stories. That’s why I do it. I really can’t imagine doing anything else and I can’t imagine not doing what I do.

On Writing described the challenges he overcame in developing this passion.

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