I read Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft when it first came out, about 15 years ago. Some of it stuck with me pretty vividly, mostly about his personal history — like when he talks about dropping a cinder-block full of wasps onto his foot at age three!! — but I’ve never reread it. When I saw that Overdrive had a copy of the audio-book read by King himself, I eagerly downloaded it. While some of the writing lessons aren’t quite as gripping the second time around (nothing like being 6 miles into a 12 mile run and listening to someone lecture about grammar — I had to switch to music!), but I loved revisiting his childhood and early years writing anyway. And it was simply fun to listen to the man talk.
“Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid, or making friends. In the end, it’s about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life, as well. It’s about getting up, getting well, and getting over. Getting happy, okay? Getting happy.”
Part biography, part instructional text, On Writing discusses not only how King became a writer, but how you can become one, too. He talks about his childhood, his inspirations, and how he got started by submitting stories to magazines when he was just a kid. About halfway through, the book switches to the nuts and bolts of writing — character development, dialogue, grammar, etc. I remember enjoying that more the first time around, but I can see on my reread how I took some of it to heart (King, like myself, HATES the passive tense). And then the “postscript” of the book covers his accident — when Brian Smith hit him with his van — and how writing helped get him through recovery.
The biggest lesson King teaches here is perseverance. He submitted dozens of stories to who knows how many magazines before getting paid a cent. He wrote for hours every evening, sitting in the laundry room of a double-wide trailer, after spending all day teaching. He says, “Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.” And he proves it with this book.