Stephen King ON WRITING – a synopsis

I finally got around to reading ON WRITING: A MEMOIR OF THE CRAFT, Stephen King’s book that every writer should read. Since he reportedly earned 17 million last year, he must know a few things about writing. Plus there are over 350 million copies of his dozens of books in existence. He has such an easy conversational writing style, and I completely enjoyed the book, written partly while he was recovering from a horrific car accident. I took notes while reading, and thought I’d share them here (in case you don’t have time to read the book):

” …the reader must always be your main concern; without Constant Reader, you are just a voice quacking in the void.” (Constant Reader being the person you imagine being the perfect reader of your book)

“The adverb is not your friend.”

“The object of fiction isn’t grammatical correctness but to make the reader welcome and then tell a story … to make him/her forget, whenever possible, that he/she is reading a story at all.”  (Love this advice)

“Every book you pick up has its own lesson or lessons, and quite often the bad books have more to teach than the good ones.” (on using other people’s books as learning tools)

“Good writing, on the other hand, teaches the learning writer about style, graceful narration, plot development, the creation of believable characters, and truth-telling.”

“Plot is, I think, the good writer’s last resort and the dullard’s first choice. The story which results from it is apt to feel artificial and labored.” (made me think of , and how much I dislike obvious authorial contortions of a story’s events (which don’t feel organic to the story/characters).

“Description begins in the writer’s imagination, but should finish in the reader’s. … For me, good description usually consists of a few well-chosen details that will stand for everything else.  … it’s as easy to over-describe as to under-describe. Probably easier.”

“The key to good description begins with clear seeing and ends with clear writing, the kind of writing that employs fresh images and simple vocabulary.”

“And if you do your job, your characters will come to life and start doing stuff on their own. I know that sounds a little creepy if you haven’t actually experienced it, but it’s terrific fun when it happens. And it will solve a lot of your problems, believe me.” (this is so true, and so difficult to explain, but wonderful when it happens!)

“With the door shut, downloading what’s in my head directly to the page, I write as fast as I can and still remain comfortable. Writing fiction, especially a long work of fiction, can be a difficult, lonely job; it’s like cross the Atlantic Ocean in a bathtub. There’s plenty of opportunity for self-doubt.”

“The scariest moment is always just before you start. After that, things can only get better.”

“Writing is magic, as much the water of life as any other creative art. The water is free. So drink. Drink and be filled up.”

Hope you’re filling up on all things creative as we all await spring and vaccinations. Thanks for reading!


“I Am” (Tom Shadyac); Solitude and Creativity

I have to say that I love Netflix – for $8 a month, I get unlimited access to more films than I could watch in a lifetime, and the inventory is constantly changing. Last night, I watched I Am, ( )a documentary by film maker Tom Shadyac (of Ace Ventura fame). He made I Am after a long recovery from a concussion he suffered, during which time he spent a lot of time thinking about his role in the world.

The title comes from a letter prolific author G.K. Chesterton wrote in response to a query from The Times: “What’s wrong with the world?” Chesterton’s one-word reply was apparently, “I am.” Shadyac traveled the world speaking to leaders such as David Suzuki and Desmond Tutu, as well as various scientists. The resulting documentary is compelling as he explores the connections between science and spirituality. One fascinating scene shows a scientist placing two electrodes (hooked to some sort of meter) into a dish of yogourt. Each time Shadyac has a negative/stressful thought, the needle on the meter moves dramatically, even though Shadyac isn’t connected to the electrodes or the meter! We all give off energy all the time, both negative and positive.

Shadyac’s conclusion is that everyone and everything across the centuries is intimately interconnected, even physically thanks to the inert gas, Argon, part of every breath we take.

Astronomer Harlow Shapley calculates that the Argon you exhale will have spread across the country within a week, and within one year the same Argon atoms you exhale will have travelled around the entire earth, some of them making their way back to you (maybe as few as 15) to be breathed again. Shapley says that your next breath will contain 400,000 argon atoms that Ghandi breathed during his long life, argon atoms from conversations at the Last Supper, and from recitations by classical poets like Shakespeare.


Kind of boggles the mind to think that we’re breathing in molecules shared by Beethoven, Gandhi, Shakespeare, Martin Luther King, and everybody else who ever existed, isn’t it?shakespeare

The problems in our world began when people stopped working collaboratively and cooperatively, as animal species do, in favour of competing – basically trying to accumulate the most stuff in our pursuit of “happiness.” In nature, the film points out, everything, every creature, takes only what it needs to survive; there is no accumulating of stuff. In the end, Shadyac reveals that he has given up his own lavish Hollywood lifestyle and moved to a small, simple house, in hopes of pursuing a more meaningful, mindful life, in spite of his wealth.  His hope is that his response to a letter asking, “What’s right with the world?” may eventually become, “I am.”

Something else I’ve been thinking about this week after reading a blog post somewhere, is the idea of solitude as being necessary to creativity, as eloquently expressed here by Albert Einstein:

On the other hand, although I have a regular work schedule, I take time to go for long walks on the beach so that I can listen to what is going on inside my head. If my work isn’t going well, I lie down in the middle of a workday and gaze at the ceiling while I listen and visualize what goes on in my (1)

Maybe that’s why my creativity seems to peak when I’m near water… So much to think about… Guess it’s time to sit down, seek some solitude and write! What do you think?