Last month I read Stephen King’s On Writing for the first time. It’s been on my periphery for some years now, but I decided to dig in now. The Talk Show with John Gruber Episode 339 “2006: Hard Work” reminded me that this draft has been in my 2022 posts folder waiting to be turned into a real article.
On Writing is clear cut. Makes sense given one of Stephen King’s cornerstones is to leave out the bad parts. King’s directness is as obvious has the forehead smack of a V8 commercial.
Another bit of advice that hit home was to write, you need to read, read, read. I used to read all the time as a kid. When I wrote Chasing the Stick, I was reading research and for fun with an insatiable appetite. Then it petered out, probably to play games, watch movies, and tweet my time away, which has no doubt shrunk my attention span. Stephen’s decree has whetted that craving for reading. I’ve already ripped through Mary Karr’s The Liar’s Club. I essentially read it twice because I’d reread sentences, savoring and digesting her memoir.
One other tidbit I care to mention here is putting away a first draft for six weeks after finishing it. In journalism, that’s not possible. But my writing here at Max Frequency has no master to answer in regards to timeliness. Again I think back to Chasing the Stick. Right after publishing that history of Naughty Dog in June 2020, I began preparing to dive into a second expanded revision. The burnout came swallowed me whole. Further fueled by rejections, I’ve touched squat of this idea. Now, two years is far, far longer than six weeks. But the lesson of taking space from your work sounds vital to future success.
On Writing is, as far as I am concerned, essential reading for writers. I’m not trying to write like Stephen King, but the lessons he wrote down have merit and are applicable to the craft on the whole. Next time I read it, I’ll listen to the audiobook. King reads it himself. I already bought it.