I finished reading On Writing by Stephen King. I almost read it in one day, but because I loved it so much I savored the last quarter of the book bit by bit for more than week.

I want to take different parts of the book and discuss it with you. Before we go chronologically, here’s something from the latter part of the book that you need to know in case you don’t make it to the end.

If you’ve taken any classes on writing, you’ve heard this before. I firmly believe we can’t repeat it enough.

Context: Stephen is giving us his take on writing courses and seminars (pg. 283).

“Writing courses and seminars do offer at least one undeniable benefit: in them, the desire to write fiction or poetry is taken seriously. For aspiring writers who have been looked upon with pitying condescension by their friends or relatives. (‘You better not quit your day job just yet!’ is a popular line, usually delivered with a hideous Bob’s-yer-uncle grin), this is a wonderful thing. In writing classes, if nowhere else, it is entirely permissible to spend large chunks of your time off in your own little dreamworld.”

and here comes the part I’m trying to get at…

“Still —do you really need permission and a hall-pass to go there? Do you need someone to make you a paper badge with the word WRITER on it before you can believe you are one? God, I hope not.”

No, you don’t. I don’t either. We don’t have to claim it as our occupation on our tax forms, be published a certain number of times, nor be published by certain esteemed publications before we think we are writers. We just are. You know if it’s a part of you. You just do. What you do with it after you know is up to you.

Get out there and buy On Writing so we can talk about it together

PS. Big thanks to the BootBoyz for passing it around. It went from Chris O’Neill in London to his brother Nick. Then Sean had it and passed it to Ant. After that Chris read it and passed it to me. I’ll get it back in the loop, but first lets keep talking about it.


  1. I enjoyed the Written Road Blog on Stephan King’s, “On Writing”.
    I too read the book in one sitting — forced in a way — you see, I was on a freighter bound for Philadelphia from Liverpool fulfilling a dream of circumventing the globe without getting on an airplane.
    I enjoyed the book, and I agree that writers do not need certification or some sort of badge to qualify them as “writers”. All they have to do is write — and, therein lies the cankor.
    For many years I wanted to write. I’d get all excited about it after reading either a particularly good or bad book. Then, I’d dust off the typewriter or computer and go to work. My idea of writing was to write voraciously for a week or so and then do nothing for the next 10 months. I wasn’t a writer — I just wanted to be a writer.
    On my trip around the world I wrote articles for the Eugene Register Guard newspaper. I learned that writing was a craft — like welding, painting, or selling door to door. It needs to be practiced, honed and shaped. I personally believe it almost needs to be lived to be real.
    My writing experience for the newspaper turned out to be as important to me as the trip itself. I learned I could write. I learned how to write. Most importantly, I discovered my true passion.
    I recently finished writing my first novel — a combination travel essay and fiction novel of a man who goes around the world without getting on an airplane.
    I’m a writer. For those who want to be a writer, my advice is to live it, dream it and most importantly do it!

  2. Hi Bob,
    Many thanks for the great comment! I think that several Written Road readers will benefit from your hard won experience.

    Congratulations on finishing your novel! Please keep me posted on the next step in finding it a home. And of course we’ll want to know when it comes out.

  3. I liked many of your comments, Bob, but this one especially spoke to me: “I wasn’t a writer — I just wanted to be a writer.” Dreaming, thinking are good, but the doing is what will get you where you want to go.

    Looking forward to your book.

  4. “Watch those adverbs!” he said warningly 😉

    I’d add another thing… If you want to ‘be a writer’, you need to be willing to be read. I have a number of friends who say they write, but in years have never been willing to let me read anything they’ve written. Writing school’s also good for breaking that habit. Either you get over it, or you drop out (as was the case for two out twelve in my class last semester).

  5. I loved reading this book because he was incredibly candid and just has a knack for explaining things beautifully. I used to write all the time, I was even published. But then I went to high school, and lost a lot of free time. I even failed English. Twice. My teachers always told me I was wrong when I interpreted literature. And then I had to read On Writing, and I miss it. I miss sitting at my computer, my eyes watering, just typing. Drifting in and out of another world. I plan on starting again soon. But the purpose of this entry was to ask all of you a question. When I finish this book I have to write an essay. Usually that wouldnt be too hard, but the question is very ambiguous. How did Stephen King’s childhood affect his writing? If only I could answer that. Didn’t he say that your past and the people you meet along the way, in addition to your mental wirings, make your writing style unique? So how am I supposed to take his childhood (half of which he doesn’t even remember) and interpret and explain how it affected him in adulthood?? If anyone knows please e-mail me or post it here. Thank you very much.

  6. I am reading On Writing now and some parts of the book are good why others are questionable. There are alot of things that King has gone through in his life that I would not even know about unless I read the book.

  7. Hi Calley,
    I love your sentence about writing all the time until you went to high school. That sounds funny to me since I’m about twice your age. I crammed a ton of activities in to my life when I was in jr. high and apparently I haven’t stopped. But yes, school (or work) can zap up our precious time.

    Regarding ON WRITING, I was most moved by the passion that Stephen had in his childhood. He liked writing and he did it. And he kept doing it. What he did with the newsletter was impressive for his age, and I think that if you can get that combination of desire and discipline to connect the way he did, well then hitting homeruns becomes easier. I saw Stephen and this connection as a foundation that he was building as a child and young man, even if he didn’t know he was building it. Then, as an adult, it was already there and the rest just came in line. But here’s the thing, others can make this connection at any point in their lives. It is not dependent on age. We can begin at any day.

    Good luck with your paper and thanks for checking out WR.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *