Why You Should Write with the Door Closed


Something’s wrong with me. For the past few weeks, I can’t seem to write anything; substantial or not. Stories form in my mind as a clear, still image, which means that the best I can get out of my head right now are single, mostly trivial, scenes.

Not good. To create a complete, compelling story, I need at least a vision of an important key-scene.

There’s another thing. What I do right now is worry too much about the end results; what readers or other writers might think when they saw my work. Completely ridiculous, of course, because by doing that I prevent myself from having any work to show in the first place.

Now I’ve experienced and understood what Stephen King says in his book on writing, “On Writing“—I know, I’ve cited this book too often, perhaps, but I truly believe that it’s the writers’ bible:

Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open.

I think to any writer with a family, especially those with small children, it’s obvious that you should always write with the door closed—literally. Better yet, close your ears with a pair of comfortable noise-isolating headphones playing white noise, pink noise, ambience, or heavy metal—whatever you fancy. Otherwise, pretty soon your wife will call you because she needs something, or your child will yank at your pants because he wants a piggyback ride—or because he needs help with a puzzle he’s playing on his iPad.

Figuratively, however, King’s advice takes on a meaning much more fundamental to, and deeply-rooted in, ourselves. As human beings, I believe every one of us—consciously or subconsciously—craves for some form of acknowledgement, feedback, and support from others. We rely on it. We’re indifferent to it. We pretend not to care, while in fact, we are addicted to it. We love it. We hate it.

Some, I dare claim, write for the sake of it.

Indeed with blogs and social media, where anybody can get instant feedback from others, it has never been easier to get all the above. But more often than not, we “let them in” way too far, even into the earliest stages of our creative process.

This is where danger comes; the point where any writer, no matter how good they are, will restrain their own voice before anybody else does or try to. This is where a bodiless voice will come and haunt you, whispering criticisms that have yet to exist or may not even exist—in an ominous, envious, and often patronizing tone. This is where—as is happening to me—you will lose any enjoyment you used to have in what you know you can do best.

And it’s true of any art form, not just writing. I also love to draw, yet lately I’ve lost the, say, “innocent childlike pleasure” of doing it because I’m no longer motivated if what I’m drawing is not “fit for publication” on my blog or elsewhere.

I forgot who said the following, and to be honest, I have no time to look it up, so I’m going to write it in my own words. As usual, I’m not telling you because I know better, but instead I’m sharing my experience; maybe you can benefit from it. That and I haven’t posted anything in a while, so why not this?

The best artists among us create because they have to; because they have a strong and unique voice that can’t be contained. The best artwork emerges from a passionate heart, not from a desire to be popular.

In my opinion, there’s nothing worse than a writer who writes about vampires just because of the popularity of “Twilight,” or who writes erotica just because of “50 Shades of Yuck,” or who writes erotica set in ancient Rome just because of “Game of Thongs.”

We can’t please everybody anyway, so we might as well please ourselves. We could create something that we think will sell, that people will love, that will make us enough money to buy a diamond as big as the Ritz. But what if none of this happened? We would be left with a soulless piece of junk that’s not entirely our own.

So—mostly as a reminder to myself—create something with a genuine passion and love for what you do. Let your imagination roam free without any kind of pressure; commercial, social, political, or otherwise.

At the end of the day, no matter what happens, at least you still have your work.

21 thoughts on “Why You Should Write with the Door Closed

  1. I used to need peace and quiet when I write. Now not so much. I was in the doctors office waiting room yesterday among fifteen of my closest coughing, crying and annoying friends. I finished a chapter and did not have high blood pressure from sitting while waiting. I never noticed those around me either. Wonder what that is all about

    • Thanks for sharing. That has happened to me, too. I was taking my son to a playground where kids were running around, shouting and laughing. I completed the first draft of a short story in iA Writer on my iPhone. It doesn’t always work that way, though. Maybe it works better once you get used to it and become more experienced?

  2. Really liked this post, very insightful! Being true to yourself as a writer is as important as being true to yourself in every other aspect of your life. Good luck with your writing!

  3. I’ve been wondering why you’re so quiet. Let me say you’re not alone in struggling to write at present, so take heart. I read that part in “On Writing” just the other day and it makes very good sense. King writes something else I think is of value: write your first draft as quickly as possible. Don’t think about it too much. I have the habit of constantly reviewing as I write and that might be part of my problem.

    • Thank you for the encouragement. I, too, worry a lot while writing. My vocabulary is limited and I have to stop and think every now and then, to look for the right words. Enough of these stops and it’s easy to get discouraged.

      As to why I’ve been so quiet: I’ve been very busy with getting my life together; I won’t reveal too much, let’s just say I’m an immigrant in Europe looking for a job in crisis times with two more mouths to feed. That and I’ve been having internal struggles in writing, blogging, and everything else.

      Thank you for the thought, I really appreciate it. 🙂

  4. “We can’t please everyone anyway, so we might as well please ourselves,” is perfect. I publish on WordPress to get a general feel for what goes over well, but only take the response as a directional sign, not a judgment. I used to go for the quiet place writing environment, but when waiting for a girlfriend who worked in a restaurant once I noticed I was more focused because of the noise and activity around me…blocking them out seemed to enhance my concentration. Now I write wherever. I agree with you, even though I don’t read King. That book is about as good of writing advice as it gets.

    • Thanks for reading. At some point I was overly concerned with peace and quiet while writing, attributing my failure in getting things down on paper to lack of focus and other—mostly external—factors. But I began to wonder if I wasn’t just making up excuses not to write. I’m still nowhere close to ‘writing wherever,’ as you’re able to do, but I hope someday I can just ‘flip a switch,’ if you will, to enter a ‘writing mode’—even while standing in the middle of a war zone, so to speak. I wonder how those journalists do it. Hm.

  5. I’ve chosen one ideal reader in my head, and I write only to please her. But that’s in the second draft. The first draft I write because I have to get it on paper. It doesn’t please me, but then I don’t expect it to.

    • You’ve summed it up well. I never quite get the Ideal Reader, as King also recommends in On Writing. Right now, I have so many questions: Who? How? Do we make (significant) modifications in our story to please him/her?

      Normally, I show my wife my completed first drafts, but we don’t always agree, and I don’t always modify my story to suit her criticisms. I guess we, as writers, have to decide for ourselves in the end?

      Thanks for reading.

  6. Pingback: Blog shout-out: sairyou.me | The parasite guy

  7. Roy’s comment from Pratchett about ‘telling the story to yourself’ is a good way to think about it but you have to tell the kind, excited, youthful side of yourself. The critical guy has to bite his lip till editing time!
    Great post 🙂

  8. In this post you spoke the truth of many … instant feedback can be as much of a burden as it can value. While King is certainly a master, there is a literary titan whose views on the matter I cherish the most; James Joyce who said: ‘Thought and plot are not so important as some would make them out to be. The object of any work of art is the transference of emotion; talent is the gift of conveying that emotion.’

    That really is what is all about.

  9. Pingback: Quote: Write with the door closed. | How to write a memo

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