Write Before, Write After

As a fan of a lot of Stephen King’s early work and as a young literary buff, I definitely absorbed with great relish the advice he penned about the topic. (And by the way, incredible thanks are due there – whether you like the advice or not, the fact that King wrote so much about his craft is very praiseworthy; if only everyone documented their processes so well!) One of the pieces of advice he gave was that if you want to write prolifically – that is, if you want to actually produce a large content of work – then writing has to be the biggest rock of all. You have to wake up every day, he said, and write ten pages before you do anything else. Before you shower, before you call or email, before anything. That’s the only way it will happen.

Well, I don’t know if I agree that it’s the only way it will happen, but it certainly seems like it would produce a lot of writing, especially if you were diligent about forming the habit of holding yourself hostage. Of course, even if I wanted to follow that advice I realistically couldn’t: three children won’t wait around for me to write ten pages before I feed them and take them to school. But I get the spirit of it.

At the same time, I’ve noticed that my writing is starkly different when I do versus don’t follow that advice. When I write first thing in the morning, a few things are true: my writing is generally easier, for one. I’ll get more written, faster. And my writing is often more concise. But I actually don’t think it’s as interesting.

When I write late, it’s often a chore. I slog through the process of getting started. But when I do put words to the page, they’re often (at least, in my opinion) more interesting. Usually because they’re a reflection of the day’s events, which are often themselves very interesting.

So a mix is fine for me – keep some variation in my style, in what appears here. The lesson is that this is probably true for almost everything you do. Where you slot something in your day affects how that thing happens. Even something as simple as leisure might change depending on whether you’re doing it early or late, or what came before or after. You could probably take all of the exact same activities you normally do, swap their orders around one day, and find very different results. Give it a try.

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