Stephen King, art, and discovery

It’s been a while since I’ve read anything by Stephen King. In truth, other than gobbling down the first two novels in the Master and Commander series while traveling last year, it’s been a while since I’ve had time to read anything, but that’s not the point. Opinions vary about the conclusion of Roland’s quest in his search for the Tower and the Rose, but for me the last couple of books of Stephen King’s Gunslinger series were awful – I’m talking Pirates of the Caribbean 2 awful – and I was so angry and disappointed, with so many things, I swore-off King for good.

Until a couple of months ago. An old friend (also a huge Gunslinger fan, and also well-aware of the bile that hit the back of my throat any time King’s name was mentioned) told me in no-uncertain terms I needed to take a pill and then pick up King’s newest novel, Duma Key.

He was right. I’m only about two-thirds of the way through, but so far it’s wonderful. Duma Key is the story of Edgar Freemantle; a contractor who comes face-to-face with the business end of a crane and loses his arm, his marriage, and ultimately that entire life, because of the accident. In an attempt to start over, Edgar moves to Florida and takes up an old hobby – art. That’s where things, in typical King style, go south.

pencilsAt any rate, it got me thinking about my own work. And while I’m no Rembrandt, I wasn’t completely awful with a set of pencils. The medium I had the most fun with, however, was charcoal. You cover the page using sticks and then slowly pull out highlights with an eraser. Darken up, erase. Smudge. Erase some more. Add charcoal. Repeat until the image you have in your mind starts peaking through. Sometimes it’s an entirely new image; something hiding under the blacks and grays and what starts out as two people dancing is actually a woman kneeling at a temple. I’d come away after a few hours with my hands looking like I’d dug my way through a mine looking for conflict diamonds. I loved it.

I’ve often thought about picking up my pencils and sketch pad again, only to get hung-up on things far less important, or things far more important, and it just doesn’t seem to happen. Call it a character flaw.

But that’s not what this post is about. What I’m really thinking about is the process of creation, specifically in the medium of charcoal, and wondering about parallels.

Sure, it’s a cliché, but life is a canvass. Or a sketchpad. Or a new Word doc, for that matter. We all have cursors floating in emptiness, just waiting for us to bring pressure to the keys. And we do. We fill the page with lines, or paragraphs, or even varying hues of dark and light, and the result is our lives.

But what images lie underneath all those letters and smudges? What can you strip away? What parts of your life you can you simply let go because they don’t belong, or you’re ready for a change, or there’s only so much canvass and you’d like to try something new?

And what are you going to find when you do?

Photo by Kabils



  1. Lynn here…Duma Key was a great book. I really enjoyed it. I don’t think I really ever finished the Gunslinger series of his, which is strange as I love all his books. Probably kids got in the way of getting back to it.


    1. Hi Lynn – thanks for the comment! Having kids certainly does make it more challenging to find time to read. I’m working on carving out some time, even if it’s just a few minutes, to read every day. Given how much I enjoy it, I can’t figure out why it took me so long to make it a priority.


  2. I also loved Duma Key. I still have all of his books – have not read all of them because, like you, I did not enjoy the last of the Gunslinger series and just kind of said, ‘yech’.
    I also remember some of your sketches that were so good with charcoal. You should take that up again.
    I read at least one to two books per week. I just find the time.


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