Stephen King offers a memoir and discussion of the creative life in On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. I tried to judiciously underline, but found so many valuable nuggets that my book is marked up like a high school English textbook.
The book is divided into two major sections, but they bleed into each other quite often. First he tells some life story, but focuses on what’s been relevant to his writing career. Along the way he offers plenty of suggestions to writers. Then he switches to intentionally discussing writing topics, including adverbs and second drafts. Throughout that section, he also inserts details about his recovery from a 1999 accident. By accident I mean when the driver of a van hit him as he walked on the shoulder of a local road.
The advice is powerful and pithy. The life story is engaging. And his physical recovery story is intense. I appreciated them all. I also expect to re-read my underlined passages for years to come.
Favorite quotes and advice
“When you’re six, most of your Bingo balls are still floating around in the draw-tank.”
“ … good story ideas seem to come quite literally from nowhere, sailing at you right out of the empty sky: two previously unrelated ideas come together and make something new under the sun. Your job isn’t to find these ideas but to recognize them when they show up.”
“I’m convinced that fear is at the root of most bad writing.”
“Your job is to make sure the muse knows where you’re going to be every day from nine ‘til noon or seven ‘til three. If he does know, I assure you that sooner or later he’ll start showing up, comping his cigar and making his magic.”
I’m embarking on a self-directed writing course, in which I’ve chosen a variety of excellent sources. This was my first choice. Since readers are often interested in the craft, I’ll review them here. Maybe it’ll inspire you as well. If not, I know you’ll just skip these reviews.
King is the perfect starting place. And he makes me want to read more of his back list, which is a project I’ve contemplated for the last few years. So don’t be surprised to see some of his work pops up in my reviews.
His tone and pace in On Writing are perfect. They’re certainly more conversational than professorial. He also offers proof of concept, because his own writing style is everything he preaches. The moments he breaks the fourth wall and winks at his reader are perfect. Yes, I saw the way you used the occasional adverb, Mr. King. And I approve, although you certainly don’t need my opinion.
If you’re a casual reader, book blogger, or writer this is a short and satisfying read. It will be on my list of “top books” for a long time.