Friday, October 6th, 2006 • 1 Comment on Writing With the King*
“Everything in your head kicks up a notch, and the words rise naturally to fill their places. If it’s a story, you find the scene and the texture in the scene. That first level—the world of my room, my books, my rug, the smell of the gingerbread—fades even more. This is a real thing I’m talking about, not a romanticization. As someone who has written with chronic pain, I can tell you that when it’s good, it’s better than the best pill.”—Stephen King
When I was a teenager, I had a tremendous crush on Stephen King. I adored his twisted, creative mind and I wanted to write just like him. I played around with the horror genre for about five years, but it wasn’t me. I couldn’t write like King and I hadn’t yet discovered my own voice. I eventually went on to write other kinds of stories and found my voice in the process, but I kept reading King and his writing style influenced my own. Still influences it, in fact, as I use some of the techniques I learned from him.
My romance with King’s novels faded over time and I stopped reading every new book the week it hit the bookstores. I don’t know if his writing style changed or my taste in reading material changed, but his writing seemed to get darker and darker and I stopped enjoying that feeling of dread he so easily creates. I knew the love affair was well and truly over when it got to the point that I would buy a new book out of habit and then let it sit for so long it was released in paperback before I ever got around to reading it in hardcover.
I still love Stephen King. Love and respect and admire him, even if I’m not always able to enjoy his fiction the way I used to. Any time he writes about writing, I find myself nodding in agreement. (As if I’m in the same league as Stephen King. Right.) But there are times when I read a quote—like the one above—and I think Stephen King is reading my mind.
King’s book On Writing should be read by every writer. Not because every writer wants to be Stephen King or because his path is typical or even possible for most writers, but because he writes about the process of writing in a way that acknowledges both the magic and the mundane, the creative genius and the scruffy muse. He is not glib or smug about his success, he does not take his talent for granted. He respects writing, respects writers, and manages to explain the unexplainable. Which, I suppose, it what he’s always done.
King has another great quote in this article that serves as a reminder never to take myself too seriously. It’s not exciting or magical, but it’s true:
“Dig this: The so-called “writing life” is basically sitting on your ass.”
(*With apologies to John Hiatt for changing his title to fit my meaning. It’s a great song, though.)