What Does A Writing Life Look Like? – King’s ‘On Writing’

On Writing

by Stephen King


“This is not an autobiography. It is, rather, a kind of curriculum vitae – my attempt to show how one writer was formed.”

And it is through his memories and life experiences that noted author, Stephen King, guides us on his writer’s journey. He reflects on snapshots of his life that were pivotal to his development as a writer: from selling his first story to his mother, to his nail so heavy with rejection slips it fell off the wall, to being a poor newlywed and writing Carrie, to writing The Shining about himself without even realizing it. While the subtitle of the book says, “A memoir of the craft,” this is truly a memoir with a message.


King writes to tell his story, but not merely to craft another spine-tingling yarn. This story is meant to inspire the budding writer within and allow this prolific author to take you under his wing and mentor you from his own personal experiences.

Pros vs Cons

King tells his tale with calm, conversational tone. It almost feels at times as though you are sitting on his livingroom floor sifting through a box of old memories. Before you can be lulled into a trance by this master storyteller, he pulls you back and keeps you focused on the ultimate purpose: to learn what it takes to be a writer.

As much an instructional course as a bedtime story, King weaves his memories in and out of purposeful, often direct instruction like you would receive in a college writing class. He provides a veritable (and literal) toolbox of writing skills you’ll need to follow the blueprints and craft your story. To that end there are moments of dry instruction, but they are interwoven with snarky humor as they return to autobiographical analogies.



  • Conversational and Pleasant
  • Easy to Relate to Experiences
  • Toolbox of Writing Skills
  • Excellent Advice
  • Dry instruction
  • Moments of more story than instruction

PI Scale*

* Since most writer’s guides vary in a range from practical advice to inspirational wisdom, I have developed the Practical/Inspirational (PI) scale. I feel these qualities rank on a continuum rather than exist exclusively. While a book may certainly have both qualities, the included graphic is meant to illustrate where I personally rate this book on the Practical/Inspirational continuum.

On Writing is overflowing with practical advice and real-life experiences from someone who has been there. Every snapshot shows more about a man and his journey to notoriety. Including both advice from the trenches and grammar-school education, this is a book that belongs in your repertoire.



On Writing has a broad spectrum of information to which writers from every level of experience can relate. If you haven’t read On Writing, you’re way off course.

Stay tuned as next time I’ll take a look at some more grammar tips as I get back to basics with Eats, Shoots & Leaves.

Between his job as a video editor and his hobby as a digital creative, Eric Kuentz thrives on the continuous quest for self-improvement.


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