One of the best books I have ever read on what it means to write, and to be a writer, is Stephen King’s “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft.” I know it may seem like a strange choice of book for someone like me, but the truth is, I really enjoy King. Sure, he’s scary and I don’t like some of it, but some of it has been really good fiction – “The Body” (which became the film Stand By Me), “The Shawshank Redemption,” “Everything’s Eventual,” “Bag of Bones” and “The Stand” are all favorites of mine.
What first attracted me to “On Writing” was that it was an honest account of one writer’s life. (And I was in the middle of my Stephen King phase.) There are literally dozens of quotes that I could pull out to explain why I like it so much. Here is just one (please pardon the one cuss word!)
You can approach the act of writing with nervousness, excitement, hopefulness, or even despair – the sense that you can never completely put on the page what’s in your mind and heart. You can come to the act with your fists clenched and your eyes narrowed, ready to kick ass and take down names. You can come to it because you want a girl to marry you or because you want to change the world. Come to any way but lightly. Let me say it again: you must not come lightly to the blank page. (“On Writing” pg 106)
How many times have I done just that? How many times have I approached writing with timidity because I thought there was no way anything I had to say was important, special, or unique? How many times have I let story ideas slip out of my grasp because I wasn’t willing to hold on to them? How many opportunities have I missed because I came lightly when I was supposed to pour out my heart with both guns blaring?
The writing contest that I wrote about earlier came and went quickly. I had all these plans – people I wanted to read my story, honest critiques, et cetera…and then, when I was online on Friday, I realized the contest deadline was Sunday (July 15). What I wanted to do was just let it pass by, forget I had even read about it, and not try. What I did, instead, was spend part of Friday, Saturday, and Sunday putting the finishing touches on my little story. It came in WAY under the word limit (but, really, 1500 words seems like a lot for a children’s picture book for zero to four year olds!) and I am pleased with it. Is it as good as it could be? I don’t know. But, I am proud of myself because I sent it in, either way.
I am going to work harder at approaching the blank page with the passion I have for the written word. I’m sure I will fail often, but I will keep trying.