Thoughts on Stephen King’s “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft”, Series 3

I have not known of scribblers who also moonlight to supplement their income from writing. What I know of are professionals who moonlight as newspaper columnists, poem writers, contributors, and the like.

In the case of Stephen King, he did not want to depend solely on writing as source of his family income. He said that if he were single, yes, he would have devoted all his life to it. Teaching in high school was his sure bread and butter. But every night and every weekend he would be in his room and write stories like Carrie, Tommyknockers, Second Coming, The Shining, and the like. He would never know when those stories would get published and how much he would earn from them.

King as a writer:

  1. Based his story characters consciously and unconsciously from his real-life experiences. In fact, he did not realize that the main character in his novel "Misery" was he himself. He only realized this when he was in his 'abnormal' (not drunk and doped) state of mind.
  2. Found it difficult to continue on a story whose central characters were women. His sortie into a girls' locker room in high school as well as his witnessing how two of his girl students were reviled in class were not enough to understand his characters; until his wife Tabby came in and helped out.
  3. Realized that "stopping a piece of work just because it's hard, either emotionally or imaginatively, is a bad idea."

I was not surprised to know that King became addicted to drinking and doping. I appreciated how he would invoke his predecessors to rationalize his addiction. Like the "Hemingway Defense" that he himself invented, claiming that sensitive male writers need to hide their sensitivity or escape from it by getting drunk and real male writers can manage their transitions to and from being inebriated.

But I was struck by his revelation that he was not a 'real male writer'. He came to the point where his family was affected by his addiction and would not want to see him committing suicide one day. He was made to decide: Dope or cope up for the family? It was really difficult for him to decide as he was afraid he could not write prolifically and brilliantly anymore once he renounced doping.

For the love of his family, King chose the latter option. And the reward was that he still continued writing, as prolifically and brilliantly as when he was doped and drunk. Then he stopped "wiping his ass with poison ivy."

I wiped my ass with a little amount of poison ivy when in college (I was in a campus newspaper organ for two years, the second year as Editor-in-Chief), I used the 'technique' of getting tipsy first before I started writing my stories or editing the stuff of our junior writers.

But I never got into doping. Shabu was already a thing in the 80s. Perhaps I was not as magnificent as King, so getting into it would have been an overkill.

To recap, a writer must be gender-sensitive so that he or she can truly and effectively present his or her characters. A writer must strive to work on a story that seems difficult to continue on and finish, which may be helped with by anyone in the know. A writer must realize that creativity is not the function of being out of the normal state of mind, by getting drunk or doped.

That writer is me, I strive to be.

[To read all related series on Stephen King's memoir, click here.]

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