As the title suggests, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft is the remarkable memoir of multiple-award-winning novelist, Stephen King. The bestselling author, who sold 2.7 million books in the USA in 2018, may be described as the Shakespeare of contemporary American fiction, with decades of experience writing novels within several genres, including but not limited to science fiction. Highlighting several life-shaping incidents from King’s childhood to adulthood, On Writing provides important snapshots into the life of this American icon. The author is quick to say that this is not an autobiography but a CV.
But, On Writing is not simply a memoir. It also a very significant instructional manual on the craft of writing. Laying aside political correctness, King confronts the brutal fact, as Jim Collins’ would say, that “there are lots of bad writers [emphasis added].” According to King, this is because not everyone is born with the gift of writing. Shakespeare, C.S. Lewis, Chinua Achebe, Chimamanda Adichie and many others are clearly wired to write. Yet many others just do not have writing in their DNA. King suggests that usually those who are not gifted in writing end up at the bottom of the writing pyramid. I agree with this thinking because the Bible seems to suggest the same when it says we are all “wonderfully and fearfully created.” Unique! This implies some, such as Solomon and Paul, can write well, are inherently wired with that grace. On the contrary, others are blessed with gifts in other areas different from writing. Various scholars, especially in the area of strengths psychology, also suggest likewise.
However, King notes that simply having a writing gift will not guarantee excellent writing. Therefore, he urges emerging writers to read a lot before starting to write. He points out that “imitation preceded creation” in the early days of his writing career. Similarly, Ahrens encourages those interested in excellent writing to read widely while taking smart notes that they can use in future writing. Remarkably, emerging writers do not have to go far to access great resources as building blocks for their future career, for as Campbell argues in The Hero with a Thousand Faces, every culture has significant indigenous stories that can contribute to the toolbox of emerging writers.
King observes that to “write to your best abilities, it behooves you to construct your own toolbox and then build up enough muscle so you can carry it with you [emphasis added].” Again, this highlights the uniqueness of every individual and indirectly points to a creative God, who has blessed us with a variety of leadership styles and, for those gifted in written communication, writing styles. I imagine there are stacks of written products and writing styles waiting to be unleashed among the billions of economically-disadvantaged individuals the global church is called to serve.
Building up enough muscle, as King argues above, is not easy. Bestselling novelist and screenwriter Steven Pressfield points out that every individual on the planet, writer or not, struggles with resistance. Elaborating, Pressfield suggests that we face resistance when pursuing any calling (writing, leading, etc); launching a business; dieting; seeking spiritual growth, education, moral transformation and a host of other worthwhile endeavors. Indeed, resistance is so bad that Pressfield says “most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance”. Working among low-income communities, I often witness untapped potential, or “the unlived life within us” as Pressfield so wittingly puts it above. Owing to reading Pressfield, I will like to explore more about resistance and how it can be overcome among the poor.
Yet for me, perhaps the most striking idea in The War of Art: Winning the Inner Creative Battle, is Pressfield’s comment that resistance is “the most toxic force on the planet. It is the root of more unhappiness than poverty, disease, …” [emphasis added]. In other words, resistance is the world’s greatest challenge. This leads me to introspect on how resistance has played out in my life, how to address this, and facilitate overcoming resistance within my family and ministry context.
 King, Stephen. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. (New York: Scribner, 2000), 18.
 King, On Writing, 139.
 Ibid, 141
 Psalm 139:14
 Matthew 25 and Romans 12 discuss these gifts in detail
 Buckingham, Markus and Donald O. Clifton. Now Discover Your Strengths. (New York: The Free Press,.2001), 3.
King, On Writing, 27.
 Ibid, 27
 Ahrens, Sonke. How to Take Smart Notes. (Scotts Valley, CA: CreateSpace, 2017).
 Campbell, Joseph. The Hero with a Thousand Faces. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2004).
 Ibid, 114.
 Pressfield, Steven. The War of Art: Winning the Inner Creative Battle. (New York: Rugged Land LLC, 2002), 15.
 Pressfield, The War of Art, 11
 Ibid, 11.