Thursday, October 28, 2010

On Stephen King's On Writing

There are no coincidences in life, of this I am sure.  Timing is divine.  And that's the reason I hadn't gotten around to reading Stephen King's On Writing before now.

For the rest of you who make up the infinitesimal percentage I belonged to  of people who still haven't read On Writing, here's why you should pick it up today:

If you are a writer:  King talks about the craft like you're sitting on a sofa across the room from him, feet up on the coffee table or tucked underneath you.  He's so accessible, describing his life from his earliest memories forward and how his experiences shaped his writing.  You'll find yourself nodding as you read, validated as the writer you are, when he says things like:

"There is no Idea Dump, no Story Central, no Island of the Buried Bestsellers; good story ideas seem to come quite literally from nowhere, sailing at you right out of the empty sky: two previously unrelated ideas come together and make something new under the sun.  Your job isn't to find these ideas but to recognize them when they show up." -- Stephen King, On Writing (Copyright 2000 by Stephen King, published by Scribner, A Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc. -- This Scribner trade paperback edition July 2010, page 37.)

If you're a Stephen King fan:  You don't have to be a writer to love this book.  If you devoured Stephen King classics like Carrie, The Shining, Salem's Lot, The Dead Zone, Misery, etc. etc., you will learn in On Writing what everyday experiences sparked the ideas for his stories.  This book is part memoir, a backstage pass into the creative mind of Stephen King, where he tells you where the dots fell and how he connected them.

But as I said at the beginning of this post, timing in life is often extraordinary.  I was reading On Writing yesterday when I came across a passage that spoke directly to me, its message seemingly intended for me:

"The most important [lesson King learned while writing Carrie] is that the writer's original perception of a character or characters may be as erroneous as the reader's.  Running a close second was the realization that stopping a piece of work just because it's hard, either emotionally or imaginatively, is a bad idea.  Sometimes you have to  go on when you don't feel like it, and sometimes you're doing good work when it feels like all you're managing is to shovel shit from a sitting position." -- Stephen 78.

Thank you, Mr. King.  I needed to hear that!