10 October 2012

Stephen King is Teaching me to Write

I think a lot about writing. The problem with thinking about writing is that it's not writing, it's thinking. If you enjoy writing, want to enjoy writing, or want to write meaningful things for people to enjoy reading (even if you don't enjoy writing them), then you should want to improve your writing abilities. The only way to do this is to read a lot and write a lot. But you can't read just anything. You have to read good writing, which is why I'm avoiding popular contemporary Christian writing for a season. Much of it seems to be concerned more with saying the right things than with writing good things well. You will write like the writers you're reading. I'd rather write like Bram Stoker than Joel Osteen.

The next level in the process, after you read and write a lot, is to read about writing. Read what good writers say about writing, then practice the things they tell you to do. This may be difficult. Not many of them have devoted time to writing about writing. Are you still following? Some people who are not good writers are trying to write to you about writing. They are not helpful. Stay away from them. Find people who are good at writing the stories people enjoy.

In 1984 (not the book, the year) I started learning to write. It may have been 1985. 1984 sounds clever but it's not true. That year was kindergarden and I'm sure I didn't learn to write until first grade. First, I probably learned to write my name. I think I wrote words like mat, cat, and hat by copying them from the board. I remember seeing them written on a board. The only natural thing for me to do next was to write a sentence about a cat with a hat sitting on mat. "Sat" must have been the word I learned. Do we learn participles in first grade? I must have said, "the cat sat on the mat". He most certainly was not sitting - he sat. We can't know for sure what kind of cat it was, or what style hat he was wearing, or what color mat he was on. Those things would come much later. We don't even know for sure whether he was a he. He was probably a she. One of the first mistakes I made with a real cat was mistaking it for a boy. I named it Harry and then had to rename it Harriet after what was probably a very G-rated animal anatomy lesson from mom or dad. Harriet eventually reproduced many kittens, some of which were girls and some boys.

All of this may not seem like anything, but it is what I'm learning so far from Stephen King. I'm not learning yet from his most popular novels. I want to learn first from the old man what he learned from being the young man. I have yet to read one of the young man's books. I hear they're good. I'm learning from his book On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. He's teaching me, so far, how to identify when I started writing. I'm learning how to remember obvious things in interesting ways. I'm learning how to tie different thoughts together in ways I've never thought before.

Maybe you'll stick with me through my ongoing process. We might look back someday and remember this blog as the place I truly learned to write. Or it may end up as a graveyard for one more of my procrastinated dreams. Thank you, all of you who continue to read as I learn to write. You're encouragements keep me going.

1 comment:

  1. Abigail Thomson12 October, 2012 12:04

    please keep writing brother. You are getting better and better. i enjoy reading your thoughts i especially liked the paragraph about when you started writing. i think you tell stories well :)


This is my blog. Please stick to the topic, keep your comments and responses respectful, and feel free to agree, disagree or give helpful suggestions. Thanks for dropping in, and happy reading!