On Writing – Stephen King
October 13, 2017 § Leave a comment
First published in the English in 2000
How long has it been since I’ve sat down with a book and found myself unwilling to put it down? I even somehow managed to find my “reading spot”—something that I’ve been unable to locate in the four years I’ve lived in this home—simply by opening its pages and allowing it to speak to me, while my body unconsciously moved around and found a sweet spot where it stopped and nested.
Stephen King is an author with more than 50 books to him name. And yet somehow, this is the first of his that I’ve ever picked up. I’ve read many good things about this book, On Writing, and how it dispenses with great advice. I got curious—I wanted to read it, too. Maybe, I thought, it could help make me a better writer.
As it happens, I did NOT buy my own copy. I visited a fellow writer friend at their home, and they had a copy sitting on a shelf in their living room. I picked the book up and asked to borrow it. They told me, “Go ahead. It’s a great book. It saved my writing.”
It got me curiouser. Save their writing?
“Not that it got me past a writer’s block or anything,” they explained. “It simply got me writing again.”
As for me, I’ve been in a bit of a rut lately, writing-wise. I wondered it this book would save me, too.
I still don’t know if it has, because I’ve just put the book down, but suddenly there’s a very different energy pulsating in my brain. Or somewhere in my body. I don’t mean that I feel a sudden urge to write and write and write. I don’t mean that I have gained some mysterious power of words. I don’t mean that I am suddenly sure and confident of my writing skills.
I mean, I simply feel a little different.
Read a lot, write a lot. Read a lot, write a lot.
That’s all we can do. And that’s all we have to do.
On being a writer:
Writing is a lonely job. Having someone who believes in you makes a lot of difference. They don’t have to make speeches. Just believing is usually enough.
The idea that creative endeavor and mind-altering substances are entwined is one of the great pop-intellectual myths of our time.
In the end, the important question has nothing to do with whether the talk in your story is sacred or profane; the only question is how it rings on the page and in the ear. If you expect it to ring true, then you must talk yourself. Even more important, you must shut up and listen to others talk.
On the process:
And I never stopped writing. Some of the stuff that came out was tentative and flat, but at least it was there. I buried those unhappy, lackluster pages in the bottom drawer of my desk and got on to the next project. Little by little I found the beat again, and after that I found the joy again.
… put your desk in the corner, and every time you sit down there to write, remind yourself why it isn’t in the middle of the room. Life isn’t a support-system for art. It’s the other way around.
In truth, I’ve found that any day’s routine interruptions and distractions don’t much hurt a work in progress and may actually help it in some ways. It is, after all, the dab of grit that seeps into an oyster’s shell that makes the pearl, not pearl-making seminars with other oysters.
Writing is magic, as much the water of life as any other creative art. The water is free, so drink.
Drink and be filled up.
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