The book is called On Writing by Stephen King, and it talks lightly about his own process, but most of all about the importance of language and story to him as a writer. I’ve read very little Stephen King if I’m honest, though what I have read I’ve very much enjoyed. I was given the book for Christmas, and at the time I felt my writing was a little lacklustre, a bit forced. With writing (and many aspects of my life) I’ve always been able to feel a kind of flow with it, a driving force behind the creative energy that keeps me going throughout the process. It felt a bit lost at the time, which was frustrating as I’d managed to get a good routine of daily writing going, with little but myself standing in the way of great swathes of work being completed.So I read this book. And it didn’t so much teach me things as remind me of them. The first thing was reigniting my love of the English language. This is something that’s very important to me, as I love language as a whole, and particularly English. This bastard child of so many different languages, taking parts from all around the world and mashing them together to become an expressive, self contradicting, overly expansive language used and abused by millions is always changing, always adapting, with many words to describe any one thing, yet always remaining exact in it’s meaning, or even non-meaning. It’s hard to create gibberish with English, you can always concoct some semblance of understanding from any string of random words with a well placed punctuation mark or particle. I myself am an abuser, (in)famous for my off-the-cuff situation based puns and prone to toying with the imagery it can provide to my own (if not other’s) amusement.But how can one abuse a language with such delight if not because they love it so much? Language isn’t just there to be used, it’s not only for discourse and passing information. It can be used for that, but woe betide us if that was all! Language is such a complex beast, you can either shun it and stick to the bare basics, or you can embrace it in every form, no sultry curve of image conjuring perfection left unexplored, no ‘unsightly blemish’ of slang or obscurity left un-admired. When one truly loves another, do they ignore those parts of them perceived as lesser or undesirable? No! You love them all the more, for without those imperfections they wouldn’t be the unique entity they are, all their faults and triumphs lit up in exultation for their existence! I could rant (and often do) about my loves of language for hours on end, but there’s been a problem. I’ve no outlet.
I write, certainly. It’s a form of outlet for that love. But you would think, going to university to study Creative Writing, that some other lover of language might come my way so that they might languish with me in the glory of our craft, celebrating together on our discovery of the rich fibres of expression waiting to be woven into a tapestry of meaning! But no. Over-embellished rants fall on bemused or amused ears, with little to return in it’s passionate wake. It’s disappointing, but other commonalities are found and we move on. It creates a blockage inside, however. Talking about it to those who don’t truly feel the same way is fine, but in the end its empty.
Stephen King spoke of language in less grandiose terms, but there lies the difference between writing a ranting blog post and a book. In the end, the feeling was still there; nestled between his pet hates of bad writers and his personal love of styles of writing, within the explanation of grammatical fouls of inexperience and purposeful abuse to emphasise a point or type of language. These are the words of a man who fell in love with language too, who has explored his mother tongue (admittedly somewhat different to my own, being English to his American, but therein lies another beauty in it’s imperfection (Ooh burn!)) to extreme degrees and understands it not as a tool, not as pieces of a puzzle to be slotted into their correct places, but as a free flowing pool of play dough, ready to be shaped and moulded to anyone’s desires and fantasies should they spend enough time playing with it.
Reading this book did two important things for me. It reminded me that I’m not alone in my love for language, and to have that passion is a gift, just like any passion. Sure, others might not be all around me right now, but we do exist, and those who have their own different passion must feel similarly lost around me, since I might not get it at all (Although, I love to hear people speak about the things they love, it’s inspiring stuff, no matter the subject).
The second and most important thing it reminded me was this. Enjoy your craft. Love your writing. Write stories you would want to read. Trust your instincts. And learn from everything. This sounds like a lot of things, but it’s not. Not at all. It’s boiled down to a simple thing, really: Have fun. The enjoyment of writing can be felt through your words, if you don’t enjoy it then why should your reader? I’d been forcing writing every day for weeks, with stale imitations I could scarcely call my own appearing in my hands. Why? I’d started thinking of it as work, and not something I loved to do.
Now I look forward to writing every day I can. I get to play with my words, explore the stories in my head and experiment with concepts and ideas. And in the end, isn’t that why we write? Why would we do something that personal if we didn’t enjoy it? There’s thousands of other things we could be doing instead. So I’m enjoying my writing, rather than fixating on what I think it should be. And you know what? I always like what comes out in the end, because it’s a story I’d want to read. Seems like you all enjoy them too!
So with that, here’s to next week’s piece, and many weeks after!