Ever since I read Stephen King’s On Writing, I have been obsessed with the fact that he writes 2,000 words a day.
That is a daunting number. I have tried and failed to reach this commitment with my writing. It just doesn’t work for me, and that used to frustrate me. It did until I looked at the issue from another perspective.
The other day, my 20-something nephew, who is as obsessed with weightlifting as I am with comic-making, told me that Arnold Schwarzenegger bench-pressed over 400 lbs in his Mr. Olympia days.
Now, discussing this, neither of us ran off to the gym to see if we could match Schwarzenegger’s numbers. That would have been stupid, right? It would have been beyond stupid. It would have been stupid, painful, and discouraging. Yet, that’s exactly what I did when I learned about King’s daily writing output.
In assuming that I had to write 2,000 words a day to be a successful writing, I fell into a trap.
Writing has been King’s 9-to-5 job since Carrie made it big in the Seventies. He’s been at this for 40 years! So, it should have been obvious to me that he’d be able to put out more words a day than I can.
Of course, I am not the only one that tries to match the output of their heroes.
Go to any Q&A with an established comic creator and you are bound to hear someone ask, “How many pages do you do a day?” It’s a sure bet the question is coming from an aspiring writer, penciller, inker, letterer, and/or colorist, but what that person is really wanting to know is, “How many pages should I do in a day?”
Even without prompting, creators have a tendency to discuss their benchmarks.
Did you know… Will Eisner penciled and inked one page a day (Master Class); Doug TenNapel, an established graphic novelist best known as the creator of Earthworm Jim, inks four pages a day (Making Comics); and Tony Cliff, up-and-coming creator behind the Delilah Dirk series of graphic novels, thumbnails 40 pages a day (Creating Comics)?
These numbers once weighed on me just as much as King’s 2,000-words-a-day thing did. However, I now know that I simply can not apply these statistics to my creative output.
These are professionals doing this as a full-time job, and I’m neither a professional nor able to devote 30-40 hours a week to creating.
King was a husband, father, and full-time teacher when he wrote Carrie. He wouldn’t have been writing 2,000 words a day then. So, why should I? Why should any aspiring creator?
We should all just learn to ignore the numbers.
If you are like me and looking to build your creative muscles, I’ve found it helpful to do one creative act a day. It doesn’t seem like much, but it goes a long way to developing the habits needed to be a successful creator.
My creative act for the day? I sketched some boilers for The Dawn Line. And you know what? That’s 100% better than nothing.