On Writing by Stephen King is a memoir of the craft of the job as a published author, mainly aimed toward the aspiring ones. The book is divided up into three sections. The first section titled C. V. was all authentic glimpses into King’s life and featured interesting little episodes that King considered his ‘life lessons’ or things that sparked his sense of humor. It also provided a very important part in the basic aspects of being a good writer: King grew up loving to read and read frequently.
He started writing and submitting his work at an early age and that’s where C. V. paints the picture of a real-life struggling novelist: how he had to work at several different crummy, though nevertheless interesting, and inspiring book setting jobs while supporting a family, a drug habit, and a fairly large and fairly flawed manuscript. The second section was titled On Writing, a section I found the most interesting and identified the most with as part of being both an aspiring author and a curious one.
In this portion of the memoir of the craft, King gives you, flat-out but not in a patronizing tone, what you need to succeed as a decent writer. The best way to summarize how I felt about the section as a whole is this: when he revealed that he taught high school English for several years before the success of Carrie, I was desperately jealous of those students. But at the end of the day, I suppose any reader that is interested enough in King could always be his student by picking up book after book of his and becoming transfixed by his material and intelligence from cover to cover.
Lastly, there’s the last section of the book, where King explores his painful memories of the accident from when an oblivious man in a blue van literally ran King over during one of his notorious thought-processing walks. The man, in attempt to calm down his Rottweiler’s in the backseat, veered off road and took King clear off his feet. This section of the book is about that and his slow road to recovery. It literally wrenched my heart when he talked of his wife setting up a table in the stuffy hall that he sat at to write for the first time.
It was obvious that writing is more than just a business occupation and it becomes obvious in this section that King has a true passion for the craft. Despite it being far from the definitive writer’s guideline, this book takes on a unique perspective on creative writing spectrum. King lays down the law and then he teaches it, essentially. He shares his techniques, his pet peeves, and his own personal horrific experiences – both as child and adult – and he does it all within the defined space of what all he can say on a printed page.
And he does it well. He constructs a personal ending with tragedy, growth, and experience within a tight covering of his famous storytelling style. And overall, I think Stephen King wrote this simply because he could. He knew it is a select audience that is going to read it and those fans who don’t ever care to be writers won’t read this book. Maybe I’m wrong and they might with the mindset that they might gain some secret insight into the mind of their idol and let me just tell you firsthand if that is the case, they will be disappointed.
In not so many words, King says exactly the same thing himself. “There is no secret to my storytelling. It just is what it is. As true as I can say it, it’s just a lot of hard work, dedication, time, and exceled patience. All of which, I had to learn on my own,” King writes. Lastly, in the heart of the book, in the section On Writing, King writes, “Now comes the big question: What are you going to write about? And the equally big answer: Anything you damn well want.
Anything at all… as long as you tell the truth. Your truth. ” That’s the biggest lesson I took away from this. But there is more, believe it or not. You can tell it from his writing. And before he gets to the end, King goes ahead and lets the cat out of the bag when he is writing about beginning again after his debilitating accident. He writes, “I feel that buzz of happiness, that sense of having found the right words and put them in a line.
It’s like lifting off in an airplane: you’re on the ground, on the ground, on the ground … and then you’re up, riding on a magical cushion of air and prince of all you survey. That makes me happy because it’s what I was made to do. ” As a human, I was touched by his childhood anecdotes and often laughed with him about his insecurities. I am still in awe at what he has recently had to overcome physically. But as a writer, I am grateful for a brief glimpse into his vocational, bright burning world.
I gained confidence from learning about things I have been doing right and have changed many bad habits or wrongdoings I’d been screwing up on obliviously the entire time because sometimes the coldest hands to wrap around your neck are the true ones. The only bad thing I can say about this book is that it’s too short, something one rarely has the opportunity to state regarding the beloved author. And a huge thank you goes to the beloved author himself Stephen King for a brief indulgence into the life of a genius storyteller.
Courtney from Study Moose
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