Another post in 2015 already, yeah! Anyway, today I just wanted to share my (perhaps overly) personal review of ‘On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft’ by Stephen King, because at the end of the day it will probably be found in my life-changing book list. Read further to see why!
This review has been published on Goodreads as well; my longest review ever written there, I believe! By the way, if you’re on Goodreads too, feel free to add my as a friend! I would be glad 🙂 Just CLICK HERE.
Although I did not read many Stephen King novels, I have always looked up to him and his writing wisdom since I was a little teenager. Thus when I found out that this part-autobiographical, part-writing-tips book was available in my school library, I grabbed it like that squirrel in Ice Age.
I read it in less than 24 hours, even if you count the 5-hour sleep I fell into early in the morning.
I have to admit that I would not give this a 5/5 stars though, but more of a 4.5/5… (please Goodreads make the rating more flexible!) and that’s mainly because at some point in the book I could feel an unpleasant arrogance, which led me to feel that King’s way was the only way. This feeling did not occur everywhere in the book, but for example, I frowned when I read that the author would simply never be able to understand those famous and appraised writers that have written only one or even only very few books in their entire lifetime because then, what the hell did they do with the rest of their time? Well, it happens that writers are different in productivity and speed and writing one book doesn’t mean that they spent the rest of their non-writing time not thinking about it and being writers as such… I’m not a published writer but writing is like breathing to me, I live to love it, and I know how it feels to be stuck with that one good story idea for almost three years and still not getting the right final draft. Damn if I end up publishing only one book in my lifetime; I know I have been writing my whole life.
Putting that aside, I really enjoyed the book. King brought out a unique way to ‘narrate’ non-fiction. It was conversational but helpful.
I also acknowledge that every writer is different in terms of dealing with writing and while many of what King stated made me cringe, every other part rang true to my pen… and heart.
Oh, yeah, before I get to my favourite life-changing part of the book, I would like to highlight King’s issues with ‘plot’. That was another cringe moment for me because I outline, I write a plot before actually writing the thing. Personally, having a plot helps me on the way; it kinds of guides me and encourages me to finish a manuscript. Of course, maybe my understanding of what a plot is might differ from King’s because for me a plot does not limit the creative process; on the contrary, it is a shape-shifter’s skeleton: it is unstable and malleable. I control its form and the way it takes and I can make changes any time I want during the writing process. I follow my characters and my instinct as much as my plot pet does. For me, that’s what a plot should be: a tour guide, but who leads to wherever the client wants to go, and not the other way round.
I would also like to pinpoint something I found quite funny when I read the book, in terms of how writers differ from one another. Stephen King has to keeping on writing to keep his characters alive; if he starts lagging, his characters could end up becoming dull and less real to him… In my case, it’s not like that at all! Whether I write a lot or not at all, once a character is brought to life by any means, he or she remains alive… to such an extent that sometimes I speak about them like they were real people, even though they might be characters I had not used in my stories for years. Like imaginary friends, I would say.
I know, I definitely am crazy.
I specifically enjoyed reading ‘On Writing’ because of how I was able to look at the craft through another writer’s eyes and I cherish our conflicting methods as much as things I was able to agree on.
Now, the best part of the book for me was when King mentioned that special ‘writing space’ a writer must have. King does not believe in public libraries or coffee shops. He believe in that little private me-desk disconnected from the world… But it really hit me when he said that even a ‘rented flat’ would not work (although of course there are exceptions). Because I finally had the answer as to why I had been unable to write as comfortably and crazily as I used to five months ago… just before I went abroad to pursue my university studies. Since I started uni I had been going from my room to the library to classrooms and even to the cafeteria to work. Even after 5 months I have still not settled on a ‘working space’ and I actually did not mind it because I loved to ‘travel’ in that sense. However I had not been able to write stories. Now, thanks to King, I can guess why. Back at home, I had my desk which I used for everything, obviously, for school, for leisure… but most specially, for writing. I realised that I could not write properly anywhere else. Even when I went to stay at my grandparents, I could not be as comfortable in my writing as at home with my desk. I remember I would always look forward to get back home when I had inspiration and start/continue writing. Although I had a laptop, it never left my desk. This was how I had been living my writing during those seven years spent in secondary education.
Now I live in a ‘rented flat’ as an international student with no other choice, but somehow I am now determined to make that desk in my room my private me-desk. It will take time for sure, because deep inside I know this situation of mine will not even be permanent thus I will unconsciously never make it completely ‘home’, but I know one thing for sure and that is to start writing again.
Thanks to ‘On Writing’, I got an idea for my next writing project and I WANT to do it. Stephen King re-lit that special writer’s spark within me. After all, as he says in the book, the hardest part is just before you start.
An Evil Nymph.