Let’s talk about bad writing and Stephen King

bad writing

Hello all! Welcome back to this blog.

Let’s talk about writing… let’s talk about bad writing.

Writing is a skill. We learn the basics, we spend years practicing, we devote ourselves to the genre or outlet of our choosing (because there’s a difference between writing fiction, a blog post, or an essay), we keep at it until magic is made.

“At its most basic we are only discussing a learned skill, but do we not agree that sometimes the most basic skills can create things far beyond our expectations? We are talking about tools and carpentry, about words and style . . . but as we move along, you’d do well to remember that we are also talking about magic.” — Stephen King, “On Writing”

“On Writing” has been one of the books about the writing craft, that I always see mentioned, whenever there’s somebody writing about writing.

And Stephen King isn’t afraid to point out bad writing practices.

I have read this book a few years ago (in 2011, according to Goodreads), and it made an impression. Still, I haven’t reread it… or hadn’t until this post put me in the mood to go and find it. And to find it I did.

“I believe large numbers of people have at least some talent as writers and storytellers, and that those talents can be strengthened and sharpened. If I didn’t believe that, writing a book like this would be a waste of time.” — SK

About Talent and Practice:

Talent is overrated. If we just look for potential, we see it everywhere. But to have it materialize into actual value, there’s another matter entirely. And to develop writing skills is essential to be a fiction writer.

I recall the first time I understood the diference between Showing and Telling. I remember wanting to do a just Showing book. Yeah! People do have strange ideas when they come across something interesting. I still have that moment near to my heart. Why? Because in the next moment, I figured out that to do all Show and no Tell would do a disservice to the story.

I found that some formats gain from a prevalent Showing instead of Telling. And that in every work we need to have exposition as well as action.

Some of these things I learned only with practice. After understanding what it meant, and analysing what I was doing, and flipping the text around just to find out if there was a better way to write the tale.

To write that “the rain poured down, drenching his clothes.” or to write “In seconds, the dark skies were upon him, his clothes weighted a ton, and the cold clang to his skin, as the downpour hit him.”, gives us ideas on how to pull the reader in, and make him feel that he is right there with our character… getting outright rained upon.

As E.L. Doctorow said: good writing has to evoke a sensation in the reader – ‘not the fact that it is raining but the feeling of being rained upon.’

These are learned skills and still we need to let ourselves loose so we might find magic in it. Understanding the rules, learning the basics and attuning the skills we need to write, clears the fundamental space we need to make art happen.

The object isn’t to make art. It’s to be in that wonderful state which makes art inevitable. — Robert Henri

And this is not just in inspirational terms but also in craft basic skills.

About Fear and Bad Writing:

We fear to write what we know. So we choose not to write at all. We fear to write somethings, so we choose the most bland and uninteresting thing there is. We fear not to be good enough, so we end up quitting. We loose dept and strength when we let fear tell us what to do.

I’m convinced that fear is at the root of most bad writing. If one is writing for one’s own pleasure, that fear may be mild—timidity is the word I’ve used here. If, however, one is working under deadline—a school paper, a newspaper article, the SAT writing sample—that fear may be intense. — S.K. (p.127)

But when some sort of practice takes place, and we keep at it, there’s a sense that working through the fear is part of this process. There’s always fear when something is important enough.

But that’s why we have courage. 

Every time fear shows it’s face, courage comes right behind him and makes him fall back. At least that’s what is expected.

And it will do it every time. Not just a one time thing, but every time something makes us doubt and fear, courage has to step in and put fear in his place.

Just Writing:

Bad writing is fearful behaviour. To choose this word or that word, overly preoccupied and attentive to what might sound like, and be like, and having other people’s rules in mind all the while we are trying to construct something… it’s tiresome and not a good process to have at all.

Good writing is often about letting go of fear and affectation. Affectation itself, beginning with the need to define some sorts of writing as “good” and other sorts as “bad,” is fearful behavior. Good writing is also about making good choices when it comes to picking the tools you plan to work with. — S.K. (p.128)

To write as good as we are able, means to choose our toolbox (Stephen King’s concept) with intention and knowledge. To have a discernment about what goes inside our writing craft toolbox so we are able to build with using the good tools we have been collecting.

Bad writing might be just unexperienced writer. And a competent writer might be an uninspired one. But a good writer? That takes talent, practice, a good toolbox and some extraordinary instincts… and life experience.

I can’t let this one out. Life experience is what shines through in the mist of our works. The things we experienced, the things we lived through, the knowing in our bones what it’s like to be there, to feel it. It’s the school of life experience that keeps a writer going and gives dept to his work.

As Georgia O’Keeffe wrote, in one of her letters:

I feel that a real living form is the result of the individual’s effort to create the living thing out of the adventure of his spirit into the unknown — where it has experienced something — felt something — it has not understood — and from that experience comes the desire to make the unknown — known. (…) Making your unknown known is the important thing — and keeping the unknown always beyond you (…) that you must always keep working to grasp (..) — Georgia O’Keeffe

We live, we read, we write. A lot. Of all three. 

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Bye and Keep Writing! ✍🏼

How to convince myself to get back to my writing projects?

back to writing

I started September thinking about all the things that I had to include in my To Do’s List (lists)… and I got a tiny bit upset with the activity.

Last week, I mentioned the need to get back with my writing program and how I was getting along with SMART Goals (read all about it here…).

This week, was the moment to deepen the knowledge of my perceivable tasks. So it was time for:

To Do List

I am quite self-conscious about what I put on my To Do List. Mostly because I feel there is a connection between the making of a To Do List and how I manage my feelings, and general willingness, to do those mentioned tasks.

I always feel I refrain from getting too specific on each item because I am afraid I will back out of doing them if I contemplate the general volume of them all. So I simplify and cut them to the most achievable parts.

I have been using these lists for quite some time, and occasionally, I have perceived myself to be quite overwhelmed by them.

When I am in a turning point for starting something, lists usually get too intense. Even if not at the moment I am working on the list itself, but afterwards, when it’s time to walk the talk.

By now, I assure you, I have handled my list issues, and already tackled my Goals Revision, Tasks Update, and have started to include all my ongoing creative projects onto my daily routines. 

But it has been a few hard days because…


And this was a wretched beginning indeed! 

Reminding me of the following quote from (a most beloved) “Pride and Prejudice”:

‘This is a wretched beginning indeed! My sole dependence was on you; and I am sure nobody else will believe me, if you do not. – p.312 of “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen, Wordsworth Classics Edition

I kept wondering about…

  • I had a list of ongoing writing (and creative) projects.
  • I knew what each one entailed.
  • What tasks should be added in a day’s work.
  • I believed I had diversity enough on my creative endeavours.
  • That my engagement with each project was healthy enough and that I could assure my output flow.
  • They were sufficient in quantity, and different in quality.
  • And were complementary to one another in most cases…

So… why couldn’t I just get on with it?!?!

Figuring some things out

Mulling over all of this, I crossed paths with the definition of procrastination, on Daily Calm (meditation on the app).

Why was I procrastinating? What is a coping mechanism? Which strong emotions? Why couldn’t I just (re)start?!?!

I kept trying to give some answers to these questions and got to the conclusion that the avoidance mode was ON.

I may know what I have to do but… what if it’s worthless? what if it’s not? what if it’s just tolerable (another ‘P&P’ reference – p.17)enough?

What if I go back to them and perceive they are terrible? And I will spend the rest of my days in a poor, sad, alone, and in the verge of a ‘not fit to be seen‘ state? (okay, I’ll give it a rest with the ‘P&P’ quotes)

Worse yet, what if I (somehow) can perform a (nothing short of a) miracle, and write something that may succeed? How will I deal with THAT?!

Or, the most hard of them all, what if I put all the efforts and then, it will never amount to nothing more than okay. Not too bad, not too good, just existing in a kind of perpetual state of nothing special? (UAU! This hurts!)

How to cope with this?

coping mechanisms

We all have our coping mechanisms. Something we think, or do, in order to deal with a cause of stress.

What occurs to me, as best known examples of coping mechanisms, are unhealthy or addictive behaviours. But that’s just me being narrow-minded.

I am sure there are lot’s of healthy coping mechanisms… like walking, exercising, talking to a friend… what else? Add to healthy coping mechanisms in the comment section below, please.

Avoiding a task as a coping mechanism

Can we cope if we avoid? I don’t think so, and yet… it’s just standard operation mode kicking in.

Adding up to my To Do List is a coping mechanism? If I just keep adding but never get to do something, I believe it is.

Delaying the starting point of a project is a coping mechanism? If I never start, it is.

Avoid committing to a plan, schedule, output is a coping mechanism? Ohhh, yes.

As for strong emotions… aka stressors

By delaying restarting my projects, what am I avoiding here? And doesn’t this avoidance mode gives me more strong emotions?

I decided to include this phrase here about stressors:


We are all different and must care for ourselves the best way we can. 

So, what strong emotions? What am I avoiding here? Grief? Shame? Impostor Syndrome? Uncertainty? Fear?

Of what? The outcomes? The efforts? The lost opportunities? The ‘I should be doing something else‘ plague?

Avoiding strong emotions with strong emotions? Substituting the uncertainty of it all, with the certainty of quitting my writing projects? Because strong emotions cannot be avoided, they are interchangeable. Today I worry about THIS and tomorrow about THAT.

Identifying the most important tasks and breaking them down

Can I identify my most important tasks? Can I distinguish among them all, which are those that really matter? And why they are the most important?

And, in the lack of external rewards, am I devoted enough to these projects?

Am I really interested in doing these specific projects? And if so, why?

And this reminded me of the following quote…


Going back to the drawing board, aka my journal, I started to remind myself of the basic of setting smart goals.

And, let me remind you and me both that, Journaling always helps when a troubled mind keeps struggling to sort things out. Writing about our conundrums give us a safe space to think about them and disperse false notions.

I took all my Goals and tested them out.

smart goals

Smart Goals imply that they are:

Specific – what I want exactly to achieve?

Measurable – how do I know I have achieve it?

Achievable – am I genuinely able to achieve it?

Realistic – will this goal be worthwhile?

Timely – when will it be achieved?

A more visual approach to these, which I printed out and sticked right in front of my nose.

smart goals


I kind of concluded that it doesn’t matter to set big, unattainable goals. What I can do is set my goal for each project and keep my wheels turning towards a much bigger dream.

And it was important to remind myself of this, because:

  • I started lists,
  • decided on ongoing projects,
  • defined completion times,
  • content
  • and my commitment to the bigger picture and… 

finally, got myself some writing time in almost all of my projects.

So I just pulled up a google sheet and started typing away at my goals for each on going project and, this time around (yes, I periodically do this exercise) tried to juggle my schedule to fit all the demands that each project ensue.

From writing a fiction book, to manage my three blogs, to creating YouTube content… I am trying to be specific on this, while still feeling like it’s all a big mess.

But if you want to know more about setting smart goals and achieve them, please let me know in the comment section. I’ll be glad to give a more in-depth perspective on this.

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Bye and see you soon.