Stephen King ends his 2000 craft book On Writing with the following quote:
Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid, or making friends. In the end, it’s about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life as well. It’s about getting up, getting well, and getting over. Getting happy, okay? 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.
What an ending, am I right?
I can’t believe I finally did it. After thirteen months of writing new pieces about fiction writing almost every single week by pulling quotes from Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, I have reached the end of my favorite author’s craft book.
On Writing is a book I read on average once a year. It inspires me. It helps me. It gives me the confidence I need to keep moving forward.
King didn’t have to write a book like this, but he did, starting it back in 1997 and not finishing it until after he recovered from the 1999 accident that almost killed him.
In some ways I believe this craft book might be more worthwhile in the long run than any work of fiction he ever produced in his long writing career. Because this craft book has the ability to inspire anyone who touches it. In many ways this craft book was the tool I needed to write my first novel back in 2010, and it’s served as an important tool for every novel I’ve written since.
I wouldn’t be the writer I am today, and I definitely would never have been able to produce twenty novels in less than ten years time, without this book. And so it’s been an absolute privilege to spend a little more than a year of my life slowly making my way through the book and responding to all the essential quotes I found throughout its nearly 300 pages.
The last quote is a gem, the kind that always fills me with inspiration when I close the book.
After all that wisdom, he distills the act of writing to its essence: we write to enrich the lives of other people who will read our books, and we write to enrich our own lives as well. It’s so plain and simple, and yet so very true. These two reasons are absolutely why we all should write.
Sure, there are other thoughts often swimming through our minds as we write. We all want to make money, at least eventually, from out writing. Getting famous wouldn’t be such a bad thing either. I’d be lying if at times while I write I didn’t at least dream about the amazing things that could happen in the future if I ever write something truly great that gets in the right hands at the right time.
But if you ever get lost along the way, always remember that a strong reason to write is to enrich the lives of those around you. To get people to think differently about a subject, to have people engage with a character that is your own unique creation. It can be all kinds of things, depending on the kind of writing you do day in and day out.
For awhile only a few people might actually read your latest work, and that is why your writing needs to enrich your own life, too. Don’t only write for others. Write a story for yourself, write it well, and usually that work will later extend itself to others. When I write the first draft of a novel, for example, I’m writing it for me. I’m telling myself a story that amuses me. Don’t think about other people at first. Think about others later.
And if you’ve done the job well, your writing will not only enrich your own life by also the lives of thousands of people in the years to come, maybe even millions!
Because writing, absolutely, is magic.
It’s as magical as any other kind of art-form, possibly more so. It’s done often in dark rooms by yourself as you type away on a keyboard creating something out of nothing. Taking ideas and characters that once only existed in your mind… and then putting it on the page for others to eventually discover.
Stephen King has been enriching our lives for decades. Giving us not just this excellent craft book On Writing but dozens of fantastic novels and stories that have certainly shaped my life into what it is today. His talent knows no bounds, and I will continue to turn to him for advice and inspiration in the decades to come.
Next week I will start responding to quotes from two new craft books, one you’ve probably heard of, one you probably haven’t, both of which I hope you will find incredibly insightful and useful.
But for now, let me give my final thanks to Stephen King, and pay a final tribute to his 2000 craft book On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. What an amazing journey this has been!