One of my favorite books on writing is, well, On Writing by Stephen King. I’ve never actually read it, only listened to it. I first heard the audio version in 2002 and ever since I have listened to it at least once a year, usually right at the beginning of the fall semester, as a sort of rejuvenation of my writing spirit. King reads the book himself and it’s a great presentation. I’ve heard it so many times – and enjoy it so much, to be honest – that listening to it at the end of September, I had fun seeing how many times I could say the lines right along with Stephen. Surprisingly, or perhaps not-so surprisingly, it happened pretty frequently. I guess you could say I’m a King convert when it comes to many of his ideas about writing. I have close to ten copies of the book in its print form, by the way, and they get loaned out to friends on occasion (and were used by the Ron Book Team last week for the October book club discussion) if you’re in the area and we’re on first-name basis.
I’m writing today to bring forth one of King’s great ideas, one he cribbed from a newspaper editor he worked with in high school: “write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open.” During that initial writing phase, the story is just for you and it’s all about exploring the creative process. The door is closed, so to speak, to the outside world and all of its “brilliant” opinion. Then, when you’re finished (King is quite strict on this. Show someone your work when it’s half-started, you may be likely to hear it’s amazing or awful and the whole dynamic of how you perceive the story can be messed up), it’s time to show it to someone or rewrite with audience or publication in mind and in essence, write with the door open.
I have been writing with the door closed and it’s wonderful. I wrote with the door open for so long – writing workshops, friends reading work when it’s barely out of the working first draft, etc. – that this really feels like a new experience and I’m embracing it. Plus, I’m not beholden to any deadlines. I’m just writing for me. It’s become something I do to relax and unwind from the laundry list of responsibilities I have. I will probably write about writing here in the meantime, though details of the story itself will remain safely behind the door.
That is, until I’m ready to open it.