In my journey through the works of Stephen King, I began 2018 by reading his critically acclaimed On Writing, and am about half way through Secret Window: Essays and Fiction on the Craft of Writing. Both books were published in 2000, several years after his debut nonfiction work Danse Macabre – which is more of an homage to science fiction and popular culture than to writing in general. (Secret Window actually includes a lengthy essay from Danse Macabre.)
Throughout my life, I have spent the vast majority of my time reading nonfiction – probably to a clip of 80/20. Graduate school has a tendency to produce in its students an admiration for dense prose and actual enjoyment of extended treatises. Like many students, however, I realized a few years ago that I was approaching my breaking point with nonfiction. Those extended treatises were starting to feel stale and the dense prose was becoming mind-numbingly lifeless and even uninteresting. It became clear that I needed a break, and the only author of fiction who had ever had any success in courting me away from nonfiction was Stephen King.
About three years ago I began reading Carrie, his first novel, and have been reading his published novels and short story collections in the chronological order of publication – rereading the ones I had already read. It’s been a slow and leisurely stroll (I think I’ve got about 30 down – and about that many to go – dude is a prolific writer!), but I have determined to pick up the pace entering this year, and plan to make a real effort to get the majority of his remaining books knocked out. [Dreamcatcher, published in 2001 is up next, in case you were wondering.]
I began the journey with some grandiose idea of tracking King’s use of Christian themes throughout his stories, but I realized pretty quickly that I just wanted something to read and enjoy! I wanted to leave my theologian’s hat on my nightstand and just read his well-crafted and engrossing stories. For the most part, that is what I have done. What a masterful and creative storyteller he is. Reading his books on writing, however, has made me want to pause and reflect on his perspective of the craft of writing. Leave it to nonfiction to spur my critical capacities back into action.
King has provided me a much needed respite from nonfiction (I still read several
nonfiction books a year, but over the past three have spent more time in his fiction), but he has also inspired me to write more. What I have learned of myself over the past decade is that I truly enjoy writing. English was always my worst subject in school, and I cut every corner I could in those classes so it’s taken me awhile to discover this about myself.
I find myself wanting to write more often and become more creative in doing so. Despite taking countless high school, college, and graduate classes across the academic spectrum, I never found myself in a creative writing class. While tiny feelings of lament over this neglect make themselves known, Stephen King redeems me as he doesn’t have much use for those classes anyway!
There are many ways in which I resonate with Stephen King and plan to work on an article entitled something like, “If Stephen King were a preacher.” One of the things I have really taken to heart in working through his books on writing is that I need to write more. He makes the obvious, yet profound observation more than once: writers write. They can’t help it. One of the most admirable things about him is that he says he writes because he has to – not because of the money or success. He has stories to tell. I’m not sure I have stories to tell [though King has made me think that maybe I do have at least one story to tell ] but I do feel as though I have things that need to be said.
As a minister I do write often. I write a sermon every week. I write bulletin articles and class notes, weddings, funerals, seminars and workshops. I love what I do and I love that I have these outlets for writing . I have even written a book which should be coming out later this year (nonfiction, of course). There are limitations in each of these outlets, but one of the reasons I keep this blog is to encourage me to play with my writing styles, formats, themes, and subjects.
My hope is that I can spend some time in the coming weeks writing. Stephen King has helped me realize that one of the most important things I need to do in my desire to write more is to . . . well, write more. As obvious as that sounds, most people realize it’s not that easy. It takes time, energy, creativity, and commitment. Amidst all the other responsibilities vying for my time, writing is not for the faint of heart. I hope to have time to let writing flow profusely from my fingertips and imagination in the coming weeks. That’s the real draw of writing for me – probably for most writers I guess. That I can take something in my mind, type out words in some semblance of order and coherence, another person can read those words, formulate ideas in their own minds, and have a kind of almost mystical connection with the ideas that were in my head. That’s another way of saying this space may produce writings that are long, rambling, and incoherent (like my sermons – say some of my parishioners, ha ha), but that’s OK. This will be my playground for awhile – so let’s see what I can get into, and hopefully some of you may find it worth your time to read what I’ve got to say.