I love Stephen King. Not as an author, but as an author. Now, before you go thinking that doesn’t make any sense, let me clarify.
I don’t read Stephen King’s books. Not because I don’t think he’s an extremely talented author, but because I’ve had enough horror in my real life, and I just don’t like to read things that leave me feeling creepy. However, (BIG however) one of my favorite books about writing is written by Stephen King. It’s called On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, and I love it because it makes no pretensions about being a “How to.” It’s more of a “Why to.”
Why do I bring that up today? Because in that book Stephen King gave me permission to read again. No. No, let me change that. In that book Stephen King told me that as an author, I had to read. Now how cool is that? I used to read voraciously. I never went anywhere without a book in my hand. I watched TV with one eye on a book. I read constantly, and I read everywhere.
Somewhere along my journey to becoming a published novelist, I stopped reading. I don’t mean I stopped reading completely, but I slowed way, way down. Part of the problem was that I became too analytical, and instead of reading for the sheer enjoyment of it, I found myself picking books apart, critiquing the sentences, questioning the motivation and conflict, and second-guessing the author’s characterization. (Yeah, I was obnoxious. Who’s asking???)
Part of the problem was that I always felt that I should be writing. I had deadlines.I had legal contractual obligations to meet. I thought I had to write any time there was a flicker of creativity loose in my soul somewhere. I stopped when I was literally too burned out to write another word, and I started again the minute that creative flame appeared again.
Writing had become my life’s work, and that meant that reading wasn’t fun anymore. For someone who has loved to read since she was 4, that’s a dirty rotten shame.
Then one day a few years ago, I read On Writing and Stephen King told me that not only could I read, not only should I read, but that I pretty much had to read if writing is going to be my chosen profession. And with that one piece of advice, he handed me back something I’d lost.
I just finished a terrific book by an author most of you probably already know. I read Alone by Lisa Gardner. It was the first book of hers I’ve read, and I read it because Stephen King gave me permission to stop writing for a while every day and do what I love to do most. Before that, I read Mallets Aforethought, a mystery by Sarah Graves, an author I’ve been hearing buzz about. It was a terrific book, and it was set in Eastport, Maine, a town I actually stayed in just last year. Having been there made the book that much more fun to read.
Who knows? If I keep this up, maybe I’ll even read something written by Stephen King!