Review: On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft
On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I avoided this book for years, but it’s fantastic! I worried it would be tiresome or sound too much like Self-Help, which is a genre I generally dislike. I also worried it would make me realize I don’t have what it takes to be a writer, which was not something I wanted to have confirmed.

What I got was an engaging book, full of moments that helped shape who Stephen King is as a person and a writer. In addition, he provides a lot of advice on writing, but it’s never annoying or pretentious. He’s honest about his process, and that was really helpful and reassuring to me.

In fact, he said so many unexpected things about writing that remind me of myself and the way I approach writing, that I had some serious “Ah-Ha” moments while reading. I found myself writing “Me too!” in the margins, and I realized that I can and probably should ignore all those people who tell me if I don’t plot and outline my book to death (their way), it won’t be readable. I mean, I’ve mostly ignored them, but I did let it nag at me and weigh on my mind.

I’ve barely written the past year, because I suffered a serious crisis of writing faith. My attitude went from happy and determined to the lowest of the low. I couldn’t reason with myself. I started drafting two novels and quit halfway, which is something I had never done before. I tried to convince myself I’m just a reader and don’t have what it takes to be a writer. That I should give up. But somehow I found myself still dabbling, even when I insisted I was giving up.

I suffered endless pep talks from myself and other writers. I read inspirational quotes and appreciated funny comics about writing. I lectured myself and allowed others to lecture me. I tried and tried and tried but continued to struggle, hating very minute of the wasted time and paralyzing self-doubt.

At the end of each day, I still felt terrible about my writing, which made it really hard to be writing. I forced myself to write anyway, but it was without the joy I used to bring to the table.

Reading this book helped me see that even writers like Stephen King struggle. They have self-doubt. They have failed projects, and sometimes they even panic and throw out something that could be great. Reading this book made me excited about finishing both my half started novels, and it made me interested in revisiting some of my past novels, to see what I could do to improve them.

Now, my only writing crisis is that there isn’t enough time in the day to tackle everything I want to work on, so I owe this book a lot. It did something for me in 3 days that I seemed to be incapable of doing for myself across the span of a whole year. It gave me back the desire to write, the courage to tell my fears to bug off, and the motivation to do the work with as much honesty as possible, regardless of outcome.

Pages: 288

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