Over the past several months, I’ve been working my way through Stephen King’s On Writing. I’d heard it roundly described as one of the best books on writing, ever (in fact, that’s one of the blurbs on the back cover: “The best book on writing. Ever.”), and hey, you know, that guy’s been pretty successful at this whole writing gig, so why not?
Why so long to get through the book? Well, there’s a lot of wisdom in it, and wisdom is kinda like a pork shoulder. You can’t just saw through it, slap it in the oven for thirty minutes, and call it dinner. It needs time to marinate. Time to cook down, time for those sweet, sweet mental juices to permeate the meat of the thing. It’s best consumed in small bites and given plenty of time to slow-cook throughout the day.
That and it’s basically been my bathroom reader during that time. One or the other.
Anyway. The book is fabulous; as good as could be hoped for. None of the hippy-dippy “writing will solve all your problems if you let it” crap that has made me put down books on writing in the past, never to pick them up again. Nor either the gut-punch, Formula-One paced blitzkrieg of penmonkey chops served up by one of my other favorites, Chuck Wendig. King’s approach is a little more thoughtful, a little more broadly appealing, a little bit … I don’t even know. It’s at times erudite and dirt-simple, oftentimes on the very same page. In short, it’s great.
And I’m not here to write a full review of the book. I will say that if you’re thinking of writing fiction in any capacity, it’s worth a read. The advice there is as suitable for flash fiction as it is for epic 5- (or 15-) novel sagas.
Rather, I’m here to gush a little. Because in the closing pages of the book, he relates a few thoughts on the craft in general, and some of those thoughts are thoughts which have passed through my very own brain, and phrased them in almost exactly the same way. Which of course means that Stephen King is my long-lost authorial twin soul.
On some days … writing is a pretty grim slog. On others … 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.
Which I basically wrote just a few weeks ago (long before I read that passage from King, honest!)
And then this, as he describes his first return to writing after a months-long hiatus caused by a near-fatal accident:
There was no miraculous breakthrough that afternoon, unless it was the ordinary miracle that comes with any attempt to create something … I’d gotten going, there was that much. The scariest moment is always just before you start.
Right? Ordinary miracles? The hardest part is the starting? I mean, these could be subtitles (or sub-subtitles) of this very webpage for how often I spout them.
I’ve not read a ton of Stephen King; I’ve only recently become a fan. But there must be something to the fact that the same sorts of ideas seem to be kicking around in both our heads.
Except for the religion thing. Turns out he’s a big god guy. Which surprises me a little. But nobody’s perfect.
2 thoughts on “The King and I (are basically the same)”
You mention about King’s accident. Apparently he was hit by a van not far from his home in 1999. He suffered a collapsed lung, a broken hip, a gash to the head and a leg broken in nine places. Afterward, King and his lawyer bought the van for $1,500 and when King was better, he wailed on it with a baseball bat before sending it to be crushed at a junkyard.
The other point of interest about Stephen King is that of the five people in the immediate King family, four of them are authors. Tabitha King, Stephen’s wife, has seven published novels. Joe, their oldest son, followed in his dad’s footsteps and is a horror writer. Youngest child Owen has written a collection of short stories and one novella (and he married a writer). Naomi, the only King daughter, is a minister and gay activist.
BTW, the title of this post is amongst your year’s best.
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You know, if you have the means, I can think of few things more satisfying than procuring the instrument that was used to do you wrong and smashing it to pieces. That’s awesome.
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