If I’m honest. I’ve always fancied myself as a one time writer. I have visions of filling notebooks, of sitting in a corner somewhere expressing myself in hard-fought-for phrases that somehow become morphed into sage or entertaining prose that would somehow, one day either pay the bills, or earn respect. My “vision” is as varied as the days I have it. It comes and goes. Like most things.
I certainly have the notebooks. not full by any means. I seem to like the idea of collecting the tangible instruments. I scribble in them, without much rhyme, rhythm or discipline I lose interest. I get distracted by downloading instant gratification tv shows or more kindly by life itself. Then in predictable order I pick up a book, and if its interesting or easy I devour it. I rapidly pick up a second book, expecting to devour it like the first and welcome back a childhood pass-time.
Somewhere in this second read (whether I even finish that book) I re-entertain the thought of writing myself. It’s not I hasten to add usually born of any sense of my being able to improve on the book I’m reading. I become interested in words and their ability to transport one from the land of the reader to the land of the writer. I also have a period of confidence during this cycle in thinking that I might have something interesting/entertaining to say. I head out and buy another writers’ guide, google another writers’ prompt site and crack the spine of another journal, scribble a day or two of exercises without much of what feels like success and wake up one day staring at the white page. Boom. That’s it. Without the structure of deadlines, I head to iTunes.
It was during one of these “writer” cycles some years ago I purchased On Writing by Stephen King. I haven’t read any of his novels at this point, except for a page in a bookshop as a teenager that scared me. Science Fiction has never been my thing. But it’s a memoir on the craft, and that’s what I was looking for;among a small collection available at that time. It’s also recommended by other writers’ guides and let’s face it he sells books for a living. I started reading when I bought it. He seemed crude. That cycle had ended. It went back on the bookcase as a “one day” book.
Last week was that day. This writing cycle is being maintained by careful management, more time, more urgency. I’m on an economy drive so after discovering some of my writers guides in a box in the shed I decided to pick up one I could just read as I got on with “Life”, and not be expected to have notebook too. So his was it. I’m glad of that. I’m enjoying it. I like him. I get him. I almost want to read him.
It is a book in two parts. I have just started on the second part – the toolbox — like writers boot camp without the exercises, after finishing the first part. Times past I would have started with the toolbox and wished the author well. However it is described as a memoir of his life by others; King is clear, the first part is his CV — the forming of the writer. So I read the “CV” at his urging as you would want to before taking too much advice.
These collection of memories paint a fascinating picture of key memories as defined by Stephen himself, focusing on his mobile childhood, his relationship with his brother and the early development of his writing talent. Quite bravely he addresses his period battling his addictions alongside starting his early married life. It’s selective, but nonetheless brave.
The bridge between the CV and the toolbox is a wonderful chapter titled “What writing is”. This is where Stephen and I meet most closely and where he cements my trust in him as my teacher (at least for 100 pages). He argues that writing has the power to transport the reader into the mind of the writer, much as I had always beleveed. He calls it telepathy. Regardless of time and space. He argues as much for the “spaces between the notes”.
My favourite passage so far:
You can approach the act of writing with nervousness, excitement, hopefulness, or even despair–the sense that you can never completely put on the page what’s in your mind and heart. You can come to the act with your fists clenched and your eyes narrowed, ready to kick ass and take down names. You can come to it because you want a girl to marry you or because you want to change the world. Come to it any way but lightly. Let me say it again: you must not come lightly to the blank page. Page 117-8
Thank you. Permission to come lightly. Instruction to see it as work?
More quotes and a better review from 37 Signals.
Possibly Related Posts: