stephen king

Stephen King: On Writing – A Memoir of the Craft

I am writing a report on a writer’s writing on writing.  Fortunately, the book does not include any stories about a she selling seashells by the seashore.  I never used to write for entertainment, therapy, or any reason other than emails or a birthday card.  Writing has been a more beautiful gift than I anticipated.  It has caused me to refine my thinking process.  When I write I have to be perceptive of what it is I am both feeling and thinking.  Putting my thoughts down on paper, or a screen, creates time to reflect on my perspective and contemplate if how I am perceiving life leads me to feel how I want to feel.  Imagine your thoughts, your consciousness, in front of a mirror.  You have to stare back at them and be okay with what you see. 

One of the ideas King frequently comes back to is that if you want to be a good writer you have to read, a lot.  In my prior life I didn’t make enough time for reading.  The all too pervasive iPhone was frequently near my side – a ready and willing participant in the game of distraction.  Netflix and television also provided ample opportunities to cast a book aside.  Along with a lack of distracting technological devices I now have more time to read.  With that time, I’ve found that I appreciate not only the books but the art of writing and the way my capacity to enjoy it has grown. 

Certain authors do an excellent job crafting tales but with fantastic authors it is the manner in which they tell them.  Reading this memoir has given me the opportunity to learn several of the finer points of writing, thereby allowing me to deepen my appreciation of the art form. 

One of the lessons King instills in the reader of his book is his disdain for adverbs.  Adverbs are words that modify verbs, adjectives or other adverbs.  They usually end in -ly.  King uses an example of a character closing a door.  Take the sentence “he closed the door firmly.”  Writing ‘firmly’ is cheating, it’s lazy!  If the author is writing well, the reader should know the manner in which the character closed the door.  An author should be able to write “he closed the door” and leave it at that. 

He also describes how for a new writer “it’s wise to eliminate every possible distraction” when writing.  Well, how’s this for distractions?  The computer I’m at only allows me to type for 30 minutes at a time.  There is a movie blaring in the background and people are also working out in here.  Yet, it doesn’t bother me.  Everyone has their right to all the limited spaces we share.  We have to be creative, understanding and accommodating.  People can use anything in life, especially prison, for excuses.  When I write I have the exact opposite of no distractions.  I take what I have and make it work.  In a way, it’s a time I can find peace amidst the chaos.  The noise is only a distraction if I find it annoying or let it distract me. 

What would a book on writing be if the author was not to bring up the topic of writing classes?  There is a writing class at Yankton and I’m enthused to be enrolled when/if it starts up again soon.  The endowment that covers the cost of the teacher/program has not come through, so the class is currently unavailable.  On top of learning more about writing, I’m excited at the prospect of working together on a creative endeavor with other inmates.  Sharing our work, giving feedback, and being exposed to more poetry, fiction, and views on life. 

“It is, after all, the dab of grit that seeps into an oyster’s shell that makes the pearl, not the pearl-making seminars with oysters.”  This is his jab at writing classes.  I thoroughly appreciate it but am looking at this quote from a different angle.  Maybe this experience, this setback, can somehow be the dab of grit in my life that ends up making a pearl out of the rest of the time I have on this planet. 

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