Stephen King on Reading

As a child, I devoured hundreds of books. I can honestly say that without that escape, I might not have made it through middle school alive. I remember how the cruel world of reality would fall away as I lost myself in the words of Chaim Potok or Toni Morrison. I believe that what writing skill I do have comes from all those books.

I would bring a book with me everywhere I went. I truly hate the constant chorus of Luddites whining about how cell phones are ruining our lives, but I will admit that having a smartphone has caused me to read a lot less, and I need to change that.

Although Stephen King writes from a time before books became so cumbersome, his exhortation about the importance of reading has reminded me what I’m missing out on:

Reading is the creative center of a writer’s life. I take a book with me everywhere I go, and find there are all sorts of opportunities to dip in. The trick is to teach yourself to read in small sips as well as in long swallows. Waiting rooms were made for books—of course! But so are theater lobbies before the show, long and boring checkout lines, and everyone’s favorite, the john. You can even read while you’re driving, thanks to the audiobook revolution. . . Reading at meals is considered rude in polite society, but if you expect to succeed as a writer, rudeness should be the second-to-least of your concerns. The least of all should be polite society and what it expects. If you intend to write as truthfully as you can, your days as a member of polite society are numbered, anyway.

He goes on to explain how these habits can transform your writing.

Being swept away by a combination of great story and great writing—of being flattened, in fact—is part of every writer’s necessary formation. You cannot hope to sweep someone else away by the force of your writing until it has been done to you.

3 thoughts on “Stephen King on Reading”

  1. Thanks, great quotes!

    Interesting that I know him as a good reader, having followed a couple of his recommendations (most recently—Kate Atkinson). I am yet to read a single book of his—I hear they could be scary, thus I procrastinate…

    Smartphones are nice, by the way. Mine allows me to always carry 3–5 books I am currently reading 🙂

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