Reading Corner: On Writing by Stephen King

I finished reading On Writing by Stephen King for the second time of my life. The first time I read it I was an eager adolescent–a teenager I believe–who wanted to be a writer more than anything in the whole world.

I don’t know what happened after I finished reading it for the first time. I know that crushing depression and a bewildering experience with my professor in my college’s creative writing program made it difficult for me to write. I didn’t write for years after I graduated college due to one thing or another, and when I did start writing again, it was fanfiction. I have an account somewhere on the internet that documents over 100 works of fanfiction, some of them over fifty thousand words.

I don’t think Stephen King would have much use for fanfiction, but for me it helped rekindle not so much love but at least a feeling towards writing again.

And it had been such a long time since I had felt anything towards writing that I welcomed it, and hung on to it, and kept writing it even though I didn’t write the stuff that got a lot of notes and attention from the fandom corners in which I lurked.

Stephen King talks a lot about reading and writing daily. I’m ashamed to say that I still don’t write every day. I’m ashamed to say that I don’t read seventy to eighty books every year. I read still, but not a lot, and again not every day. Stephen King is very hard on television and I do tend to veg in front of netlfix after a long day’s work. I find it difficult to wake up in the mornings and no matter how determined I am to Accomplish Things and Write Stuff in the mornings, it rarely happens.

I’ve been vaguely aware of this untenable state of affairs for a while now. Re-reading King’s words of wisdom was simply a fog horn telling me to stop diddling around on the internet and to actually Do Something–especially since I have my first novelette on KDP and I need to follow up on that. I need to start drafting the second one, I need to start my other projects, I need to do all These Things when I can barely find the strength to get out of bed.

In the latter pages of this book, Stephen King talks about the joy of writing, and how he never did it for the paycheck. I don’t have that joy. I haven’t had fun playing around with words for a long time. I want to survive on my writing, and I don’t want to go back to my job because working is like being in Azkaban.

So I think first and foremost I need to find that joy again as well.

I don’t know how I’ll do that, but I do know that I won’t find it by waiting for it to come to me. I know that I enjoy writing. Even when I don’t enjoy it until I start (much like cardiovascular activities), eventually I get in the zone and I feel love for the words I’m putting on the page, and I love the way I’ve put them together, and I love writing.

So I know it’s there. It just needs to be rekindled. It’s been untended for far too long–first because of brain and heart sickness, and then discouragement and the lack of ability to tell a story–to even think of a story.

And I need to learn how to write a story–but I won’t learn until I actually start. Until I fail and pick myself up again. I’m waiting for a rejection notice from a magazine, and I can’t wait to share the story with you because I think it’s good (good for me) even if it’s rejected. Because even a rejection slip is proof that I tried, that I accomplished something. And rejection cannot take that away from me, and I cannot let myself get discouraged.

Stephen King said that he had an Ideal Reader in mind, someone you wrote for. I don’t think I have one of those yet. My Mom and my Dad are good people but there is a lot of bad stuff between my mom that I don’t feel comfortable having her be my ideal Reader. Also, she doesn’t have the time and has her own circle of people towards whom she bears emotional responsibility.

Stephen King’s Ideal Reader is his wife but I have been single for over five years and I do not see that changing anytime soon, nor do I particularly want that facebook status to change anytime soon. The friends I’ve had look over my works (both fanfiction and original fiction) have not done so with particular enthusiasm or care, and I can’t imagine returning to them for input or insight.

But you know what–I can’t let that stop me either. I know that writers don’t do well alone–that they do need a community of some sort.

So in addition to recommitting myself to writing every day, I am also going to try to make a friend to be my Ideal Reader. And maybe I can be their Ideal Reader in return–anything could happen.

My isolation in terms of friendships is not good for my writing. Staying at home all the time minus trips to the movie theater, is not good for my writing. That needs to change as well. One thing that stuck in my head when reading this memoir is that Stephen King’s ideas for a novel came when he was out doing something–even something as mundane as work or driving up a highway. Even I’ve experienced this. My venture to Utah’s salt flats have shaped the background of two stories, even if I did end up putting them away for later.

Despite not having read hardly any of Stephen King’s works (I think I’ve only read Firestarter), I am grateful for this call to action, and I definitely plan to act on it. I do recall that there is a live poetry reading at a nearby coffee shop every Saturday evening that might make for a good starting place.

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