Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft is one of my favorite books ever. I’m on my second read and didn’t realize how much I enjoy his honesty and advise on writing, ideas, and life in general.
I decided to review it after one of our featured artists – Kevin Litwin – mentioned what the book meant to him and how it helped him as a writer. The light bulb went off, and I thought … what a great book to review!
So, here’s the intro. The book is not your traditional how-to write; it’s his story about what influenced him and how he got to where he is today. It’s not organized by chapters, rather sections that feel like stream of conscious but flow very well. Each section builds on one another, and you can easily read a couple of pages, laugh, and get back to life. You may not want to put it down though, so consider yourself warned…
I’ve always wondered what made famous writers famous. It’s not the writing quality (sometimes unfortunately), it’s not based on pop culture or what’s in style. Before everyone knew King, no one did. I’ve decided it’s the storytelling and its delivery.
With that said, here are some highlights and things I learned from the first 10 sections:
We tend to remember the traumatic events more than the good times. I’m sure psychologists would say because we are scarred and do not heal, they have more of a lasting effect. Maybe that’s true, and I definitely think it makes a writer better. Writers use that negative energy to tell their story and heal themselves.
We need the bad and the good. The hard times help us appreciate the good ones. They evoke emotion – negative or not – that we need to feel and act human. Artists have to have a muse, and no matter what, emotion is our muse. Certain things evoke the emotions we need, but at the core emotion fuels art.
Get ready to toughen up. I won’t spoil too much, but King refers to not being scared of literary critics thanks to a 200-pound babysitter farting on his face when he was a young boy. (Words wouldn’t scare anyone after something like that!) The point is if you plan to put yourself out there, get ready for people to talk about it. People love commenting – on everything.
Imagination is a wonderful thing. Think of some great fiction writers, Dr. Seuss, J.K. Rowling, Shakespeare, King, and think about what you love about their writing. It’s not because it’s grammatically correct or a best seller, it’s the creativity they put into the story. It’s their incredible imaginations flowing onto hundreds of pages that create a world for the reader. That’s imagination.
Be yourself. I’ve discussed this many times, and the more I learn, the more I realize how true it is. No one cares about your education or social class. No one cares where you came from or who you know. If you pour your heart, soul, and everything that is you into something, people will notice and appreciate you for it.
This week I challenge you to a writing exercise: Pick something that evoked a strong emotion – good or bad – and write about it. No one has to read it, just let the emotions pour out onto the page. What happened and how you really felt about it. Don’t be afraid. Who knows, maybe it’ll turn into something great!