Saturday, September 5, 2015

On Writing by Stephen King



Why I Read It: Recommended by m brother-in-law, a fellow writer.

Summary: Stephen King tells us how he began writing, what he avoids, what he has in his writer's toolbox, and all about the accident that nearly took his life.

My Thoughts: Stephen King can make my skin crawl writing about himself.

I have, like many Americans, a long term relationship with Mr. King. My dad and I decided to read one of his books concomitantly, planning to share our thoughts after the last page had been turned. We loved it. I went to college to a heavy workload, studying to be the historian I am today; my dad went into the winter as a hibernating landscaper, reading everything he could get his hands on. The books I couldn't read because I was thrust deeply into the worlds of the Renaissance and the Early Roman Empire, my dad practically read to me over the phone.

Now, two decades later, my dad gone, Mr. King and I meet again, yet on a more professional course. And I find, amazingly, we have much in common.

No, I am not making millions, and no, I haven't even dabbled in fiction - yet. But we share a passion that he describes artfully, the simple joy of letting words flow from our minds onto the page. We write.

More than that, we share the art of the writer. In this book he definitively tells us all to read if we want to write, and to become obsessive about it if we want to succeed. I'm there. I never leave the house without a book in my hands. Heck, I bring one to bed and carry it around the house with me all day. He instructs us to read in long lines at turnpike tollbooths; I can do him one better. I read at stop signs if there are cars stretching out into the distance. I guess in a way it's validation. I can now point to Stephen King and say to my wife, "See? If he says it's what I should do..."

Even so, he surprised me with some original thoughts about writing that I will take to heart. My first slap-in-the-face lessons came from a college professor, who in one corrected paper on the life of King Henry V of England changed my life. This book is along the same revelatory route. King dropped a few "Eurekas" on me, making me look at writing from new perspectives.

And as exciting as that is for me, as I read the book I couldn't help thinking about my dad and how much he would have loved it, how learning about where the ideas originated for some of my dad's favorite King tales would have made him laugh out loud. And it would have led to phone calls, and laughter on my end of the line.

As much as King makes me squirm, he makes me laugh. His no-nonsense, downeast Maine personality shines through this book in a way I wasn't expecting. In a way, I hate admitting to my brother-in-law that I've finished reading it, as that means I have to give it back.

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