“Books are a uniquely portable magic.”
For devotees of King, the first half of the book was a true treat, where the author takes time to tell us the highlights of his life that influenced him into the writer he became. Heartfelt memories of his mother, brother, wife, and children were a joy to read, with me growing teary-eyed on an occasion or two. I was delighted to see small things in his childhood that reminded me of things to come in later books (like IT.) His mothers support of him from the beginning was, I think, a crucial part of his development. One of the more emotional areas of the books, it's good to have someone fighting in your corner and keeping your hopes up. After his mother, there was his wife, all playing their big parts in who he became.
It's stimulating to see other authors (or anyones) love of books, comics, and old horror movies from their past.
The viewers that come to this blog share this, for we're universally tied together through our memories of a beloved passion that shapes us so greatly.
In fact, at the book's closing, King lists recommended reads from the last three to four years.
He tells of his drug and alcohol addiction. I enjoyed his parting line on the section, stating (not word-for-word) that while creative types may be more inclined to be users, this isn't an excuse, it doesn't matter, as we "all look the same puking in the gutter."
The self-revelation he had that he was actually writing about himself in 'The Shining', and that Misery was about the coke and booze, was intriguing. It's clear King was a born writer, saying it's more work NOT to write on a daily basis, drawn to it where he kept trying and not giving up, even from the period of Junior High.
Once the memoir has passed, he delves into a variety of writing advice. No quick how-tos, exercises (okay, a small parting one...), but instead discusses his viewpoints on the craft of writing, showing high respect for 'The Elements of Style', warning against those pesky adverb overdoses, too much wording fluff (guilty!), and dialogue sins. I'd say his most repeated, emphasized advice is "read a lot, write a lot."
I found through this book that King doesn't outline, that he places characters into bizarre situations and writes to get them out of it, he doesn't rely as heavily on plot as some. He gives advice to new writers on literary agents, discusses the importances of re-writes and then gives an indepth-description of how he does his, including at the end of revised example in the second draft of "1408". Much love is given to his wife, Tabitha, listing her as his ideal reader. King discusses the importance of having a select few to give their ideas on your book before sending it off. He spends a chapter discussing so called creative writing courses and groups, not dismissing them outright but rich in his common sense as he honestly shares his viewpoint on how they may not help you grow.
If I have one complaint, it's that I'd love for the book to be longer, to hear more indepth details about certain older books. Since Carrie was his first published novel, he shared how the idea came, how Tabitha helped encourage him, how he found many of the facts, and how it grew from there. It was interesting how he said The Stand was his hardest to write, and that he almost gave up on it, and it took him the longest since he put it away in a drawer for a time. It's not so much interesting because of him and the book exactly, but because this is the sort of situation almost every writer will eventually run into.
Even if you're not a prospective writer, this is interesting stuff. It's not a guidebook or an instruction manual, it's just a writer's life being discussed. 'On Writing' is nowhere near a definite guideline, but King makes this clear up-front anyway. There really are no 'definite guidelines' in writing, you either write or you don't. If you're interested in King at all, the thoughts on writing perhaps show more about him and his life than anything else.
"A year or two after I sobered up, I got rid of that monstrosity and put in a living-room suite where it had been....In the early nineties, before they moved on to their own lives, my kids sometimes came up in the evening to watch a basketball game or a movie and eat pizza....I got another desk - it's handmade, beautiful, and half the size of the T. rex desk. I put it at the far west end of the office, in a corner under the eave....I'm sitting under it now, a fifty-three-year-old man with bad eyes, a gimp leg, and no hangover. I'm doing what I know how to do, and as well as I know how to do it. I came through all the stuff I told you about...and now I'm going to tell you as much as I can about the job....
It starts with this: put your desk in the corner, and every time you sit down there to write, remind yourself why it isn't in the middle of the room. Life isn't a support-system for art. It's the other way around." - From On Writing