For my birthday, my oldest son, Shawn, and his girlfriend, Lisa gave me a copy of Stephen King’s “On Writing.” For some crazy reason, this duo has faith in my yet-to-be-proven novel-writing ability. They thought I would uncover a nugget or two of encouragement and advice in the part-memoir, part-guide-to-writing penned by such a prolific, captivating and successful author.

They were right.

I couldn’t put the book down, laughing much of the time and nodding in agreement at King’s light-hearted, straightforward look at his career and the curious world of writers.

On page 57 of the memoir portion, King tells about his first job as a sports reporter for a local paper. John Gould the editor returns King’s first article to him and says: “When you write a story, you’re telling yourself the story. When you rewrite, your main job is taking out all the things that are not the story.”

“Write with the door closed. Rewrite with the door open.”

In the book, King credits Gould’s advice:

“Write with the door closed. Rewrite with the door open. Your stuff starts out being just for you, in other words, but then it goes out. Once you know what the story is and get it right–as right as you can, anyway–it belongs to anyone who wants to read it. Or criticize.”

I do write the door closed, letting all the thoughts rush out through my fingertips and on to the page. It’s the writing with the door open that I fail at, fearful of what might happen if I even opened it a crack. King shared a very primary concern of every writer—wanting to put everything on paper perfectly the first time. He reminded me that getting the words on the paper—warts and all—is the first part of the job, and often the hardest. Only when that’s done, can we open wide the doors of our offices and hearts to refine, tweak and polish up the kernel of our original thoughts.

King’s advice to rewrite with the door open couldn’t have come at a better time. As I work my third draft, I’ve unlatched doors and pried open a couple windows, too, exchanging self-doubt for the cool breezes and warming sunshine I need to finish telling the story.

 

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