Stephen King’s pencil – stop hacking and start doing!

May 18, 2016

by Ravi Raman

What brand of #2 pencil does Stephen King write with?

Have you ever wondered about that?

Someone on Reddit did, and posed the question.

I’m fascinated by this question because of how it echoes a broader theme in our life-hacking addicted culture.

Does the Redditor think that with the unique brand of #2 pencil in hand, that she too will be able to gush forth words of grotesque creative wisdom in a King-like manner? It’s a silly thought, but far too many people think like this.

There is a false hope that tools and hacks will win the day. The success of sites like Lifehack, Lifehacker (yes, they are different sites and both attract millions of views per month), and the rise of Tim Ferris’s near-Oprah-like status among the Technorati are a testament to this.

We are living in a tip and trick seeking culture.

The truth is, I’ve never personally experienced (or known) any lasting and positive breakthrough in health, fitness, business or life that has resulted from applying a particular tool or hack. The significant results have always come through a different mechanism of setting clear goals, doing the work and figuring things out as progress occurs.

It’s always been through deliberate practice and taking action that amazing things happen. The tactics and tips are inconsequential at best and at worst can keep you stuck and feel like you must master specific tools or perfect a methodology (or even worse, acquire the “perfect” item) before getting started with your project.

Let’s get back to Stephen King.

Writing this post got me curious, what type of pencil did he use?

Rumor has it that he used a Blackwing 602 at some point. Who knows if he still does. If you are looking a Blackwing, you are in luck, they started making them again in 2010 after being discontinued in the 1990’s. You can buy a generic pencil for a fraction of the cost, though.

It appears that King is also not a big fan of hacks based on the fact that he doesn’t share writing tips publicly. He probably understands how distracting these tips can be for people seeking to do remarkable work when the real secret is all about putting in the effort.

Instead of dishing out tips and tricks, King has done something even more useful. He shares a broader writing philosophy and a few strategies for making something great. These are codified in one of his rare non-fiction works, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, in which he makes the following point in answering the question of how to write well.

You learn best by reading a lot and writing a lot and the most valuable lessons of all are the ones you teach yourself. – Stephen King

According to Stephen King, writing well boils down to actually doing the work and learning from the process. It’s not about the brand of the pencil or any other specific tools or system of writing.

If you enjoy learning hacks and tools, that’s fine, but remember that there is something more powerful inside you that can come out through a commitment to just doing what needs to be done.

Use whatever brand of pencil you like.

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