Since NaNoWriMo 2017, I have had a story knocking around in my mind. I can see it. I dream about it. Unfortunately every day I’m too tired to sit down in the evenings to write more of it. But it’s still there. This summer my plan is to set a daily word count goal and hit it while I have the time and energy to get it down on paper. Before then I wanted to read about writing, to get an idea of process and motivation, and the first little book on the docket was On Writing, Stephen King’s 2000 memoir about the craft.
Reading about King’s lower middle class upbringing brought me back to my roots. Granted I didn’t grow up in the 40s and 50s, but Maine is slow to change and so some of the conditions he describes are still familiar to me. Reading about the University of Maine Orono and teaching in Hermon brought me back to my own college days. Reading about his journey was like traveling back in time, back to Maine, back to my childhood. I devoured that part of book with the excitement that accompanies recognition. I know those places! I know those things!
His personal story includes his change in fortune with the successful sale of his first novel, Carrie. Following this we take a short journey through his battle with addiction to drugs and alcohol, and then through to sobriety and how he discovered that writing doesn’t require outside influences, that it’s always inside you. I know it sounds a little woo-woo, but the way he wrote about it makes you believe that it is 100% true. His struggle back to health and writing after being hit by a speeding van is a story most Mainers are familiar with, but hearing it straight from King brought it to the present again. It was difficult to read.
I enjoyed his personal history just as much as his advice on writing, which begins about a third of the way in. His writer’s toolbox containing grammar, vocabulary, style is individual to each person and shouldn’t be used to shame others. He implores us to avoid passive tense and adverbs. And perhaps the most important advice of all for me is to have a set routine so that I always write at the same time every day, and always until a word count is met. Not only this, but also that I should be in a room with a door that I am my family are comfortable with me shutting to show I am serious about working on writing.
I was given a gift by this book, and that gift was permission to write a book even though I don’t have an MFA or even a degree in English. I can be a teacher and a reader and a writer and as long as I take the time to write and am open to the editing process, this could happen for me. I just have to tell a good story. More importantly, I have to tell the truth. When I closed On Writing, a light had been turned up to 100% brightness inside me and my characters roared even louder, demanding to be brought to life.
Hold on guys, the summer is almost here.