Over the last several weeks, we’ve taken lessons from Steven Pressfield, Elizabeth Gilbert, and Seth Godin, and applied them to our journey as B2B copywriters. In this article, we get insights from Lynda Barry and Stephen King on turning your dreams into effective writing.
Stephen King and Lynda Barry — Nightmare shapers
Both Stephen King and Lynda Barry are Hall of Fame level writers, each in their respective genres. King is, well, king of modern horror and suspense, with a National Medal of Arts to show for it. Barry is an Eisner awardee and considered one of the greatest in the field of comics and illustrated fiction.
If you think these two writers are from faraway worlds, well, think again. Both writers, in their own way, are particularly skilled at taking nightmares and shaping them into positive writing dreams. In addition, they have both written about the process of writing. Stephen King’s On Writing and Lynda Barry’s What It Is, are excellent resources to explore the writing process, and help you achieve your writing dreams.
Using the nightmares you know
King explains that he grew up loving horror stories, EC horror comics, and horror movies like “I Married a Monster from Outer Space.” He writes, “I was built with a love of the night and the unquiet coffin.” He goes on to explain — if you want to succeed, you’ve got to write what you know.
You’ve surely heard that statement before. The point he’s making, though, is not that you need to actually experience the story you’re conveying. It doesn’t mean you can’t write about telekinetic teens out for revenge if you can’t blow up a few gas stations by thinking it. What that does mean is really — write what you love, write what feels right, what feels true to you. Imagine it, research it, feel it, but don’t force it, don’t fake it, be true to you.
Which is the feeling conveyed in Lynda Barry’s book as well. What It Is is filled with a haunting, collage style; a constant exploration of what ideas, imagination, images, and memories are; confessional comics in between; and tons of the monsters of childhood bubbling to the surface.
Barry explains those monster tales help us confront our fears and move on, in all kinds of ways. She was always entranced by the Medusa/Gorgon monster. That furious woman with terrifying eyes and snakes for hair that froze you with her look — helped her deal better with her Mom!
How does this apply to B2B writing? Well, it starts with doing enough research into your client’s prospect that you can put yourself into the situation yourself. Imagine the fears and desires… and then write what you know so your copy connects with the prospect’s deepest emotions.
Barry provides specific methods of helping you overcome your writing barriers. One way is to set a timer and keep on writing until it stops. She insists this gives you the structure to focus on writing in a way that prevents the external constraints and interruptions from holding you back.
King agrees on the crucial nature of time in achieving your writing dreams. Simply put, if you want to succeed as a writer, you need to make time to be a writer. King provides specifics. Writing is his job. He writes 4 hours a day, at least. 2,000 words a day. Everyday except Christmas and his birthday, except that in truth he writes on those days too.
While both King and Barry provide lots of specifics on the nuts and bolts of writing, they also insist on the physical nuts and bolts of your writing door. You need a door to shut out the rest of the world. Because this is your time to do your work, that’s what gives you meaning, that’s what makes you happy, that’s what you need to live your dream life.
Which brings to mind the story of Dan Kennedy, one of the top copywriters in the world. He’s known to be maniacally protective of his time, and his doors. He says that time’s the one resource that can never be returned, and his time is sacred, to do his work without interruption. There’s a story that he was writing and someone knocked on his door. He thought it was a salesman and refused to answer. Then a few minutes later, the knocking resumed, louder, at the back door. Dan still ignored it. Then the knocking resumed, frantically, on his window. “Mr. Kennedy! Your house is on fire, get out!”
Making your writing dreams come true
King and Barry would likely agree with Dan Kennedy in that respect. They’d probably add in some monsters and other truths that they know and make more amazing work. And so would the other writers we’ve looked at in this series.
Whether it’s Steven Pressfield in The War of Art, Elizabeth Gilbert in Big Magic, Seth Godin in What to Do When it’s Your Turn, Lynda Barry in What It Is, or Stephen King in On Writing, the themes are consistent:
If you are a B2B copywriter, be a B2B copywriter, get up and write. Be a pro and get to it. Make the time. Put away the hesitation and the fear and the procrastination. Overcome Resistance. Go for the Big Magic. It’s your turn. Time to get to living your writing life dreams. Yes, you can!