I finished On Writing – A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King yesterday while driving home from a quick stop to pick up coffee from my wife’s favorite coffee spot. It has taken me a little over a month to get through, which is due in part to limited listening opportunities and in part to frequent pausing to allow the content to really sink in. When you have the opportunity to learn from a gifted teacher with a wealth of experience, you pay attention and take notes.
The audiobook, read by Stephen King, is honest and straight forward. It opens with Mr. King sharing highlights from his life – the things which formed him into the writer he is today. His personal story is powerful. His upbringing, schooling, various jobs, the highs and lows of pursuing his passion, and his battles with personal demons were inspiring and noteworthy -lessons for those of us willing to learn from the experience of others.
What stood out for me was his marriage. The story of he and his wife journeying together through life, unflinching even at its worst, is a story all married couples can learn from. It caused me to reflect on my own marriage. I want what Mr. King has. Not his wealth, talent, or fame (though that would be nice), but a marriage as strong and devoted as his.
Later in the book, Mr. King gets into the “nuts and bolts” of writing and publishing. Sage wisdom and various tools are offered to the reader (or listener) to place in their own toolbox. This portion of the book, too, is straight forward and bluntly honest.
In the “nuts and bolts” chapters there is a discussion on writing the first draft of your manuscript. In it Mr. King speaks on writing with the door closed. Meaning, as you are first putting your story to paper, it should be done without prying eyes; without external voices to pick apart your work. Get the story out.
The idea of writing with the door closed left me with a heavy weight of guilt. I’m a sharer. I want to share what I’m working on as I’m working on it. The truth of Mr. King’s words fell close to home when he reminded his reader that it is easy to allow praise to make you lazy and criticism to discourage you.
Of all the wisdom this book has to offer, writing with the door closed, is the most valuable tool I came out with. I’m easily distracted. Praise can make me lazy; rob me of the urgency to tell my story. Criticism can add weight to my self-doubts and discourage me from pressing on.
If you are able to, whether you wish to be a writer or not, On Writing – A Memoir of the Craft, is a worthwhile read. An opportunity to learn about the life of an amazing author and learn indispensable tools of the craft.