Seven Ages of Books (6)
In the first part of this series on Seven Ages of Books, we looked at the books and authors that influenced my very early years. In the second part, we moved forward into my teens, when I first discovered fantasy, a genre that is still one of my favourites today. In part three, I was in my twenties, and heavily in to science fiction. By part four, I had reached my thirties and we returned to the realms of fantasy. And in part five, we moved to the classics and also to TV adaptations. This time, I’m going to talk about the only non-fiction book of the series; although the author is known primarily for a very different type of writing
I am a real scaredy cat; afraid of the dark and with a vivid imagination of what might be hiding around any corner to jump out at me. I don’t watch horror movies or TV programmes, apart from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which is much funnier than scary, and I never read anything that might give me nightmares.
Consequently, I’d never read anything by Stephen King before I reached my sixth decade. Then in 2006, I decided I wanted a change from the technical textbooks and articles I was working on, and started learning the art of creative writing. And I discovered the writerly community was huge, welcoming and generous. Through Social Media, I got to know lots of published authors and those aspiring to be so; and almost without exception, their recommendation was: read On Writing.
Described as a memoir of the craft, it was published in 2000, having been written after King recovered from a near-fatal traffic accident. It’s certainly part memoir, telling of the early years when he was a struggling writer looking for that first break. But it’s also his philosophy about writing. I opened the book at random while writing this piece and found the following quote: writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid or making friends. In the end, it’s about enriching the lives of those who will read your work.
As a writer, I try to remember this, especially when the words don’t come or the books don’t sell. But as a reader, I already know that my life is continually enriched by the books I read, the stories I absorb.
Oh, and I did finally get to read some of King’s fiction. His Dark Tower series is terrific. But it’s a homage to Tolkien – so I would say that, wouldn’t I?