On Writing: The Book & My Thoughts

In 1999, the legendary Stephen King wrote the legendary book about what he did best, On Writing. 

Ever since, it's become required (or at least highly recommended) reading for any aspiring writer or really, any type of creative. The book has timeless wisdom and it doesn't hurt that the advice comes from one of the most successful authors alive today. 

I don't talk about writing on here nearly as much as I talk about reading. I think it's for a few reasons. One, the blog was started to log my reading journey. Two, I am much less confident in my writing ability than my reading ability. Three, I don't feel experienced enough to really "talk" about writing. 

But the truth is that after reading, writing is the most important thing in my life. It is the thing that challenges and fuels me, that makes me believe in a world worth fighting for. I am simultaneously terrified by and in love with it. I also think I still have a lot to learn about it. So what did reading On Writing teach me? 

First, the book clarifies a very important fact: writing isn't easy. And it's not supposed to be. I've doubted my ability and passion as a writer countless times because of how difficult the process can feel. Certain points of the process come most naturally; some points have to be torn out of you. 

Recently, I've become obsessed with Timothee Chalamet, a brilliant young actor. I watched an interview where he spoke about his acting experience and how he realized the more he did it, the easier it'd become every time. Stephen King also mentions this in a different way, but the message is the same: the only way to become any type of writer is to write. And write some more. And write again. 

There are also small technical lessons present in the book that are well-worth your time, like how much description is just right and how adverbs will kill your story. All of these are nice pointers. But really, that's not what I gain from this or any other book on writing. 

Instead what I get is the push that I occasionally need to keep putting the pen to paper. As King mentions, the journey of a writer is a solitary one. At a certain point, you need to close the door and work. But what these books, and interviews, podcasts, readings of the same sort, provide is a reassurance to keep on going, to pursue the burning words inside, even in the face of self-doubt and rejection. 

That's why I don't read too many books on writing. Many of them are repetitive and don't actually have much substance to them. But when I do, I'm careful to choose the ones I think will not only enrich my toolbox, but truly fuel the fire again to continue. And On Writing does that. 

"You can, you should, and if you're brave enough to start, you will."

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