Stephen King: On Writing

As many times as my good friend has encouraged me to read Stephen King’s novels, I could never make it past the first few pages. The stories are too full of the voices of his repressed childhood trauma screaming for attention for me to enjoy them. That’s why when TK Coleman and several other people I respect recommended that I read his book On Writing, I was skeptical.

After reading over half the book in the past 24 hours, I’m pleasantly surprised. Although the writing style does not pierce my heart like Anne Lamott’s and I still don’t think I’d like him in person, Stephen King’s writing is highly entertaining and has even made me laugh out loud a few times. In the first section about his history as a writer, he tells captivating stories from his childhood and his struggles with addiction that make it clear that the monsters in his novels are indeed coming from inside of him. But just because he has not resolved his childhood trauma doesn’t mean he hasn’t mastered the art of writing.

In the second section of the book, King delves into practical advice about how to progress from a competent writer to a good writer. He says that bad writers can never become competent or good writers; if you don’t start off as at least competent, then there’s no hope for you. I’m desperately hoping I fall into the latter category.

Here’s one piece of advice that struck me:

There is a muse, but he’s not going to come fluttering down into your writing room and scatter creative fairy-dust all over your typewriter or computer station. He lives in the ground. He’s a basement guy. You have to descend to his level, and once you get down there you have to furnish an apartment for him to live in. You have to do all the grunt labor, in other words, while the muse sits and smokes cigars and admires his bowling trophies and pretends to ignore you. Do you think this is fair? I think it’s fair. He may not be much to look at, that muse-guy, and he may not be much of a conversationalist, but he’s got the inspiration. It’s right that you should do all the work and burn all the midnight oil, because the guy with the cigar and the little wings has got a bag of magic. There’s stuff in there that can change your life.

More quotes to come.

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