In On Writing, Stephen King weaves together memoir and guide so seamlessly you’d think adjoining the two is the only way to write a book on writing.
“It starts with this,” King writes, “put your desk in the corner, and every time you sit down there to write, remind yourself why it isn’t in the middle of the room. Life isn’t a support system for art. It’s the other way around.”
But On Writing is not about art; it is about a writer’s craft.
In the chapter titled TOOLBOX, King situates the writer alongside a carpenter: both require tools to erect structures that will hold. Shelves of the writer’s toolbox are appropriately dedicated to grammar, vocabulary, elements of style and form, and structure.
With a writer’s toolbox, King states, one can tackle sentences, then paragraphs, then longer form works (like essays, short stories, and novels).
In On Writing, King arms himself with honesty, wit, and dry humor, striking a balance between ruthlessness—King is convinced the road to hell is paved with adverbs and that if you refuse to take writing seriously, you should do something else—and self-awareness, with which he describes his battles with alcohol, drugs, and his ego.
On Writing suits the high school student in need of a toolbox to tackle the admissions essay, the writer who needs to be reminded that the desk belongs in a corner, and anyone with a love for language, brutal honesty, and a sprinkle of self-deprecating humor.