I just finished Stephen King’s book On Writing.
This part memoir– part writing advice book was inspiring, but for one scary thought that made me wonder if I’d wandered into one of King’s horror stories:
“…while it is impossible to make a competent writer out of a bad writer, and while it is equally impossible to make a great writer out of a good one, it is possible, with lots of hard work, dedication, and timely help, to make a good writer out of a merely competent one.”
With brutal honesty, King stripped me of all false hopes. But I am left with one true hope that I pray in Gregorian-like chant: Don’t let me be a bad writer, don’t let me be a bad writer, don’t let me be a bad writer….
The book reads quick as King intended. Though some thoughts are not quick to let go.
Writing with blinds down and door closed for example. I’d much rather look out a window. But maybe shut blinds will keep my mind from wandering away…
Writers need a dedicated desk, humbly shoved into a corner. I’ve no more harbored guilt over that recent layaway purchase – that lovely old mustard colored table…soon-to-be writing desk of mine.
Writing practice is invaluable. But it should not seem like practice. Time stands still when I write. And when I’m not, I’m drawn to it. I remember well how I dreaded piano practice as a child. When forced to sit in front of the ivory keys, I goofed off until my jail sentence was over. No way writing practice is like piano practice.
No matter what, tell the truth always. This is why I write. Writing helps me to discover truth and it keeps me real. I’ve learned words must speak truth. Half-truths and lies simply do not hold together, nor lie down in a well-behaved line of words.
Writing is merely transcribing what you see or hear. My best writing– the words that breathe and come alive on paper–are not my words at all. They seem to come out of nowhere. King calls this ‘nowhere’ his muse. I prefer to credit God. I hope he or she doesn’t mind. I liken transcribing to the way Mozart composed. He heard the music first – only then did he write. Mozart was great at taking dictation.
“Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous…. In the end, it’s about enriching the lives of those who will read your work and enriching your own life, as well.” Sounds like King’s benediction to me. To which I’ll say amen.
But here’s my own benediction. I bought On Writing for my son Kyle to respond to a birthday gift he’d given me two years before. That day, Kyle asked me to name my dream – to speak it aloud. Throwing caution to the wind, I did. And rather than laughing, he believed. Then he searched for his trusty list of twenty writing tips he practiced himself and gave them to me. The gift of On Writing to Kyle was my clumsy poetic way of saying — I believe in dreams. And I believe in Kyle. And I believe in Kyle’s dreams on writing.