Friday, May 19, 2006

A Companion Unobtrusive

For the past month I’ve been listening to the unabridged audiocassette version of Stephen King’s On Writing whenever driving in my pickup truck. I read the book when it first came out a few years ago, and like several of the better writing books I have consumed over the years, it’s one of those gems that are worth rereading every year or so.

(It reminds me of some advice that a friend and writing mentor, John Strickland, gave to me more than 15 years ago -- he loaned me a copy of a book by Dean Koontz on how to write bestselling fiction and suggested that I read it 3 times the first year and once every year after that. At the time I didn’t quite understand what he meant, and thought perhaps it was a bit of overkill. Like much of John’s advice, I only grew to understand and properly appreciate it when I gained a bit more experience, a bit more wisdom, but haven’t been able to track down my own copy of this long out of print book)

I like King’s down to earth and straightforward approach to the craft. I also like the fact that he doesn’t try to hide the fundamental truth that it’s a hell of a lot of work. There have been at least a dozen times while listening to him that he said something I would have wanted to write down in bold letters and stick up on the walls in my writing space. A short tidbit of wisdom or advice that I found inspirational and worth repeating to myself again and again.

I must admit the wonderful uniqueness of the experience listening to the book in my truck. The book is read by King himself, so it has been almost like having him sitting there in the passenger seat of my pickup, patiently waiting for my return so he can continue telling me his take on the writing life. He has been like one a hitchhiker I’ve picked up who has these fascinating stories, points of view and wonderful pearls of wisdom to share.

And now that I’ve come to the end of the book, now that my traveling companion has reached his stop and I’ve dropped him off, the truck feels empty, too quiet. No matter which radio station I turn to, no matter what other cassette I slip in, I can’t fill Stephen’s absence.

And then I start feeling bad that though he waited so patiently for me every day to return to the truck, even though he shared plenty of great advice in order to help me with my own writing efforts, not once did I ever offer to pick up a cup of Tim Horton’s coffee for him.


Sheri said...

I so enjoy Stephen Kings writings! He's always been one of my favorite authors and people. Living in Maine, I can tell you that he and his wife, Tabitha, do some wonderful things for this state and the people in it. He fascinating.

Kimberly said...

hey, I'm going to see him in NYC in August...maybe I can rush the stage and offer him a cup on your behalf!!!

I too enjoyed Stephen's take on writing. It seemed less like instruction (which I'm a big fan of by the way) and more like a guy telling his story and you learn something from it.

I should read it again!

Mistify said...

also a big fan of King...and I find myself sad everytime I finish a book...like I am saying goddbye to a friend. Good post oh, and good HNTs Have a good weekend

Jack Slyde said...

It's not quite the same, but there's an audio version of Bag of Bones that he reads.

Phain said...

like the books you've re-read in the past, play the tapes over again my friend...

Rainypete said...

The man is great for the community but even better for the craft. While the leterary gurus may poo poo his works I ask how many copies of the literary greats are sold versus his books. His writing is genuine and realistic and make sit easy to connect with. Often the connections are so good that we are drawn in with his fears and end up scared at the end of a good read. My all time favourtie quote of his i still "I am the literary equivalent of a Big Mac and Fries. "