On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King
When you think of Stephen King, you likely think of all things horror and catastrophe mixed with a tinge of morbid fantasy and sci-fi. What you don’t often think of are memoirs, commemorations, and life lessons but his book On Writing is all of that and more. From quirky and humbling experiences to practical albeit sometimes harsh writing advice, Stephen King empowers readers and writers alike to embrace their history and never stop striving for what they know to be true in their hearts. Maybe that’s a little cliche for Mr. King but it rings true to the funny and empowering messages he tells through story in this unique book.
His story starts in childhood and cascades haphazardly to the present day (when this book was written). Not only are his stories relatable and motivating but they stay true to his roots in portraying the uncomfortable, dissatisfying, and awkwardly humorous realities of every day. What truly makes his memoirs shine is how much of his success he attributes to the undying support of his equally talented wife and all of the highs and lows along the way.
The second half of the novel takes a turn toward his teaching days and goes through a variety of tips, tricks, and methodologies that help aspiring writers to refine their craft. He frequently drives home the power of persistence and idolizes White and Strunk’s Elements of style for their invaluable insights into the written word. Stephen King puts extreme value in rule #17: Omit needless words. King says:
“Kill your darlings.
Kill your darlings even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart.
Kill your darlings.”
He elaborates by saying, “The road to hell is paved with adverbs” and reminds writers that their job is to keep the story going, not revel in our own descriptive abilities.
In the end, when you’re putting together a piece of content, King encourages you to half it - then half it again! Revisions are a vital part of the writing process and should always make the story more clear and engaging to the reader.
“To write is human, to edit is divine.”
Finally, in the spirit of pushing past your inhibitions in content creation, Stephen king provides the following insights:
“I’m afraid that fear is at the root of most bad writing.”
"So okay― there you are in your room with the shade down and the door shut and the plug pulled out of the base of the telephone. You've blown up your TV and committed yourself to a thousand words a day, come hell or high water. Now comes the big question: What are you going to write about? And the equally big answer: Anything you damn well want."
It doesn’t have to be a thousand words a day but remember that your ability to create is only bridled by your own fear. You can write “anything you damn well want!”