Second  in an Occasional Series: Stephen King’s “On Writing”

In the late 1990s, the New Yorker serialized Stephen King’s memoir about writing (appropriately titled “On Writing”). The series was wildly popular, and was published in book form in 2000, going on to sell more than 500,000 copies.

In this space, we will periodically share snippets from the book that we think hold particular interest for memoirists.

Verbatim from “On Writing”:

I was stunned by Mary Karr’s memoir, The Liars’ Club. Not just by its ferocity, its beauty, and by her delightful grasp of the vernacular, but by its totality---she is a woman who remembers everything about her early years.

Mary Karr presents her childhood in an almost unbroken panorama. Mine is a fogged-out landscape from which occasional memories appear like isolated trees...the kind that look as if they might like to grab and eat you.

What follows are some of those memories, plus assorted snapshots from the somewhat more coherent days of my adolescence and young manhood. This is not an autobiography. It is, rather, a kind of curriculum vitae---my attempt to show how one writer was formed.

Why this is reassuring to memoirists

You don’t need to have total recall about your life to create a compelling memoir, as reinforced by one definition we particularly like: A memoir is a biography or historical account based on personal knowledge; stylistically, memoirs usually indicate fragments of autobiography rather than a complete retelling.

For most of us, there are events or stages in our lives that we can recall with clarity and detail---whether it’s formative childhood experiences, significant friendships, influential teachers, career successes, family life, or the times when our mettle was tested.

Armed with your unique perspective of memories you have chosen to memorialize, preserving a piece of your personal history is well within reach.

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