On Writing (More From Steven King)

Lately I have been “reading” Steven King’s novel “Billy Summers.” I put “reading” in quotations because I’m actually listening to it via Audible. Once again a King protagonist is wrapped up in writing a book. He comes to a turning point…Will he stop writing or carry on? What he says made me instantly think of a friend who has been “writing” a book for several years now. I’ve actually read a couple of chapters of it. Recently I asked him if he was still working on the book and he replied he was. But I’m not so sure about that. 

Billy is a hitman, not a writer. Being a writer has been his cover story. So, almost for his own amusement he started actually writing while waiting to carry out a hit. Later he opens up his story on his computer and after reading the first line he “feels a kind of despair. This is good work. He feels sure of it. But what felt light when he started out now feels heavy because he has a responsibility to make the rest just as good and he’s not sure he can do it. . .” He looks out a window and wonders if he “just discovered why so many would-be writers are unable to finish what they started. He thinks of “The Things They Carried.” Surely one of the best books about war ever written. Maybe THE best. (Aside: I “read” that book, too, and I have to agree with King. In fact, when I get finished with “Billy Summers” I’m going to have to read “The Things They Carried” again.)

“He thinks writing may be a kind of war when you fight with yourself. The story is what you carry. And every time you add to it it gets heavier. All over the world there are half-finished books. Memoirs, poetry, novels, sure-fire plans for getting thin or getting rich in desk drawers because the work got too heavy for the people trying to carry it and they put it down. ‘Some other time, they think.’ “

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