“On Writing” by Stephen King – Not Just for Authors

Photo Credit: Typewriter by Gerardo Regos

Read this book. Follow this link–On Writing–and buy Stephen King’s book. Then read it.

I don’t care if you’re a doctor, a mom, a racecar driver, or a motivational speaker, this book is for you. I don’t care if you think you’re the tits at what you do already, this book is for you.

But if you’re an author, you have zero excuses for not reading it. And re-reading it. It’s a life-changer.

I don’t pretend to be a book critic. I know when writing’s good and when writing’s bad, and typically I keep my negative opinions to myself. There’s enough hate in the world. But this is the first time I’ve felt compelled to say READ THIS BOOK!

Half the book is about Mr. King’s early life, his family, how he came to be a writer. Half the book is dedicated to advice meant for writers but is 100% applicable to anyone who wants to truly be themselves.

I’ll only share a fraction of the advice he gave because read the book. There is no substituting a clipped phrase like “read a lot and write a lot” for an entire chapter of wisdom. Like his fiction, he builds to his point and when it hits you it hits you like Pow! Super!

“If God gives you something you can do, why in God’s name wouldn’t you do it?”

I bet you could fit the aspiring authors who have never felt doubt about quitting their day job inside an old-school VW Bug. On the Moon. And they’d probably be able to survive without oxygen because they’re mythical creatures from outer space.

Everyone, everyone, doubts their choices. A fledgling writer like myself doubts it five times before breakfast, let alone when facing the Blank Page.

You’ve doubted yourself and questioned your talents. At some point you tried to show someone, “Hey, look, I did a thing!” and they shrugged and told you to switch your major to a stable career, like Accounting. I bet there’s a natural born Accountant who was told to switch to a Business major. Because that’s life. People are assholes–even the ones you love. Especially the ones who love you. They don’t want to see you fail. Listen instead to the ones who would risk your failures to watch you win.

I made the decision to tell all of those doubters, including my good ol’ brain, where they could shove their opinions. I made it a month ago. And, y’all, it’s scary.

But, if God gave me writing, why in God’s name wouldn’t I write?

“If you can do it for joy, you can do it forever.”

Using your talent for the cash-value, and only the cash-value, is shady and sad. If you don’t want to do it, don’t do it. Especially when it’s a hard, lonely job like writing.

“Do you do it for the money, honey?

“The answer is no. Don’t now and never did. Yes, I’ve made a great deal of dough from my fiction, but I never set a single word on paper with the thought of being paid for it… I have written because it fulfilled me. Maybe it paid off the mortgage on the house and got the kids through college, but those things were on the side–I did it for the buzz. I did it for the pure joy of the thing. And if you can do it for joy, you can do it forever.”

I submitted one of my stories, only one, to one magazine. It was rejected.

Young Steve pegged his rejections to his bedroom wall. I just left mine in my inbox. Whatever. It wasn’t for them. Who knows? All I know is it healed me to write it.

I enjoyed writing it, even though it was a painful exposition of my own demons and PTSD, because the writing of it brought me joy. I decided not to submit it anywhere else. You can read it here, free. Let me know what you think. If you like it, great, if not, that’s alright. I didn’t write it for you. I wrote it for me. And I shared it because I hoped it would make someone feel something.

“You can’t please all of the readers all of the time; you can’t please even some of the readers all of the time, but you really ought to try to please at least some of the readers some of the time.”

Stephen King tells us to listen to the beat, learn the beat, don’t force the beat. Don’t flatten it with rules or fear how it’ll sound. Just let it be. And be honest. Don’t say “defecate” when you mean to say “shit” because you know your mom will read it. You’ll find more joy in the honesty, and the truth will resonate.

If you get stuck, if you get discouraged, step back and ask yourself what it all means. Add things that are helpful and toss things that are not–“delete stuff that goes in other directions.” Don’t give up.

“You can learn only by doing.”

Get out there. Do it.

Make messy mistakes, peg rejection to the wall, and keep going.

Listen to the beat.

 

What did God give you? And what are you doing with it? Tell me in the comments.

 

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