Crossing the ocean in a bathtub

If you’re an aspiring writer, you’ll probably recognize this quote:

Writing fiction, especially a long work of fiction, can be a difficult, lonely job; it’s like crossing the Atlantic Ocean in a bathtub. There’s plenty of opportunity for self-doubt.

If you don’t recognize it, maybe it will intrigue you enough to pick up the book. It’s from Stephen King’s On Writing.

If you like memoirs — read it. It’s a brilliantly told story of “how one author was formed”. If you’re a Stephen King fan, read it too. There is a fair amount of horror in On Writing and a certain doctor with a very long needle. If you’re a beginning (or an advanced) writer, chances are someone has already recommended it to you. It is, on par with Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style, the book most commonly recommended to aspiring writers. If none of the above, well, I’d still say give it a go.

On Writing is partly a memoir, partly a writing master-class, and it reads like a page-turner. Yes, a Stephen King, after all. But there is nothing obvious about a best-selling horror writer being a good teacher. King is. He demystifies the writing process without trivializing it and tells the hard truths without being intimidating. He’s pragmatic, and funny, and always hits the nail on the head.

Like with this absurd bathtub metaphor. It is how writing feels to me most of the time: like an unjustifiable endeavor — chances of making it to the other shore are slim, and all along the way one doesn’t know how long it will take or if it was a good idea in the first place. And yet the affair has a certain quixotic appeal, doesn’t it?

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