I am terrified of Stephen King. Not for that reasons that you might expect. Sure, I spent some of my early teenage summer nights huddled under a blanket with a brick of the Stephen King novel and flashlight in hand. I might have lost some sleep to Pennywise the Clown, however it didn't scare me anymore than when I see workers not clearing up under the EMPLOYEES MUST WASH HANDS BEFORE Going back to WORK sign.
I started to sincerely fear Stephen King when I was a writer. I don't fear the self-proclaimed “King” of Horror for his vampire-ridden dark antebellum alleyways or rabid man-eating dogs. I'm afraid him for his productivity.
When I just read his only masterpiece, “On Writing: A Memoir from the Craft,” I was in awe of just how prolific this man could be. When i write this essay, Stephen King has written 85 books. According to Wikipedia, King has penned 59 novels, 10 story collections, 5 non-fiction, and 11 within the category “other,” (by which he has written graphic novels, screenplays, and essays.) King isn't willing to fall into retirement in the age of 70, and not even being crushed by a van while walking deterred his outpouring of words. Let's face it, while mortals sleep, Stephen King writes.
“On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft” is brilliant in lots of ways, first it allows us to begin to see the king before he was the God of mass-market horror novels. We see him struggling to pay the bills as an English teacher in Hampden, Maine where his wife dug out an earlier draft of Carrie using their wastebasket because she saw the possibility.
In his memoir, Stephen King explains his routine: “I prefer to get ten pages a day, which comes down to 2,000 words. That's 180,000 words over a three-month span, a goodish length for any book – something where the reader can get happily lost when the tale is done well and stays fresh.”
I haven't read all of King's novels, but of the ones I've read several his early work stick out as favorites. Carrie would be a short read by King's standards but was full of terrifying characters. ‘Salem’s Lot painted a portrait from the darker side of small-town America, using the classic vampire lore mixed with modern US culture. Pet Sematary explores tragic family loss and Christine instills the look of teenage outcasts. Whatever Stephen King novel I read I stop and admire his art for storytelling.
The most amazing thing is that King has done this because the 1970s. He is a piece of equipment. I love to think of King as the Cal Ripken Jr. of contemporary writing. While Cal Ripken Jr. may not have been the most talented of his contemporaries, he played 2,131 consecutive MLB games. They both laced up their shoes one foot at a time and went to work, every single day. Stephen King famously wrote through addiction and claimed in “On Writing” he doesn't remember writing Cujo because of intoxication.
King teaches us many things in his must-read memoir for budding writers, which is not that writing drunk is productive. It is that he used writing it as being something to put his demons at bay. They got up every single day and did his job, and it just so happens that his job is writing wildly entertaining novels.