This is now my favorite book of all time. For now, that is. It used to be Atlas Shrugged, but this takes the cake, the cookie, the every-goddamn-dessert metaphor there is.
It is that good.
I probably have this extra love for this book because I write for a living. Though I’m not on the same spectrum of writing as Stephen King is, I still found myself relating, laughing along, and thoroughly enjoying this book.
Reasons I Love It
This is Stephen King. Just him, nothing else, plus the things that make him a living legend in the horror genre. Reading the book was like listening to him in the flesh. And I love how it was such an honest look at his life and his writing, two things that are essentially one. There’s quite a lot of things about his life that I didn’t expect was his reality. And I love how much of it and the way he grew up influenced his craft. I guess it helped that I didn’t know much of him on a personal level prior to reading this so it was really such a surprise to find out the highs and lows of his life.
Written with love
Not romantic love, but there’s a passion here that can only come from doing something you love. Okay, fine, if you’re hoping for anything romantic then his constant reference to his wife, Tabitha, is indeed romantic. Sorta. He does it so effortlessly, nothing cheesy, but as you go along it dawns on you how much she means to him. It’s not just love per se, no can’t-live-without-hers, but the way Tabitha fits into his life perfectly shows you how deep their marriage is. Every so often, when I read the book and encounter lines that speak of Tabitha, I can’t help but think that this is a love letter (or a love book?) for “Tabby”.
The other kind of love that, for me, emanates through King here is his passion for writing. This is probably the closest I’ll ever get to being lectured by Professor King and it is such a privilege to see him counsel budding/pro writers about the semantics of writing but, at the same time, empower them by using his struggles and persistence as an example.
Emphasis on courage and Humility
One of the most difficult things for a writer is being criticized. I still remember the time my editor threw my first few press releases across the table out of dismay. Over time, I’ve accepted the fact that, for as long as I write for a living, I would always be subject to the whims of my reader/editor. I’ve developed a stomach for criticisms, but also decided to stay true to my style by journalling, and now, blogging. That’s how I cope with the nuances and made sure I don’t lose how I truly write.
But for budding writers, or those who are interested to get into fiction, King does a perfect way of encouraging you without giving you false pretenses. He does it with practicality that stops short of saying, “Hey, look. Even I get dissected to pieces.” Yet, despite all these, he tells us to stick to the kind of writing that we know, with the humility to accept what our audience will tell us. It takes courage to do that, to allow yourself to be vulnerable to other people’s subjective opinion, but that is the best way to grow not just as a writer but also as an individual. So yeah. Write like you would sans influence, and let the rest work itself around that. It’s refreshing to see Stephen King, an author who writes about complicated themes, banner courage regardless of the circumstances.
Honesty and self-awareness
Though an accomplished writer, and aware of it, King doesn’t teach writing in a patronizing manner. Frank, brutally honest, yes. But disrespectful, no. There’s dark humor to be had, a snarky sarcasm here and there, but nothing below the belt–at least to me. Much of his criticisms to certain practices in writing are based from his prejudice (as he would also admit) and just part of his personality.
It shows you what shaped him, and he has accepted it as part of who he is. I also love how he has been open to how he started as a writer, and even let people know about his family background. Most of all, that he allowed his readers a look into the addictions that threatened to cripple him, plus another literally almost crippling event in his life. My favorite parts were the first and the last chapters of this book that I think he wrote with such vulnerability.
It is inspiring
There were a lot of events surrounding this book that was so organic, you’re basically just going to get inspired to keep going as a writer yourself. Again, I would recommend here the chapter “On Writing” and just prepare to be awed at how its contents fit into his overall relationship with writing per se.
King chronicled his struggles just as they were sans melodrama. And at the end of these struggles, he goes back to the importance of writing as if it was the air that keeps him breathing, living. I get it because it is also as such to me. I mean, hey, at the very least it’s what pays my bills.
Here’s my favorite passage from the book. It’s not written together, but were phrases from two paragraphs that resonated with me:
My book is dog-eared, folded at the edges, now bearer of a creased spine. It is a book that has been with me every chance it got, whenever it fits my bag, and even if it doesn’t I find a way to bring it. Whenever I thought about using a smaller bag, but have a long commute to consider, I changed my mind and found a bigger bag just for this. Never mind the umbrella, covered sidewalks and running will save me from rain. If all else fails, I still have a healthy stock of Biogesic anyway.
It’s a book that should be required reading for college students, because man, it is a non-fiction magnum opus. Whether you like writing or not, have an intention to write at all or not, this book is highly extra super mega recommended from this side of the blogging planet.
And sorry not sorry, Stephen King, for those adverbs. I believe they were necessary. 🙂