Zen Pencils Tells the Inspirational Story of Stephen King’s Writing Desk

Many of you reading this site will know that the greatest book of writing advice ever written, ever, ever, ever, is Stephen King’s On Writing. There is a particularly important passage in that book where King encapsulates his entire writing career, his battle with substance abuse, and his belief in art’s purpose into one brief anecdote about his writing desk. I remember being especially struck by the story the first time I read it, so I was pleased to see it turned into a touching comic by Zen Pencils!

King has been open about his dependence on alcohol and drugs for decades now, detailing his family’s staged intervention and mentioning saying that he can’t even remember writing Cujo. Put into this context, the writing desk becomes a powerful symbol. When King started out, he and his wife, the writer Tabitha King, shared a small trailer with, at that point, two children. The Kings worked long hours in various menial jobs, with Stephen carving out a few hours at night to write literally wedged into their laundry closet—it was the only way he could have privacy from the kids. What’s fascinating is that once he became successful? His big reward to himself was a giant desk…where he could do even more work. But even this seemingly spartan gift became a curse when it fed into his own sense of self-importance, and eventually addiction.


Tucking himself into a corner allowed him to observe life again rather than dictating it, and fed into his sobriety and artistic philosophy.


Founded in 2012 by Gavin Aung Than, an illustrator based in Melbourne, Australia, Zen Pencils highlights a few inspirational quotes each month. While Than’s own favorite is Teddy Roosevelt’s “Man in the Arena” speech, the quotes run the gamut from Bill Hicks to Carl Sagan, with stops along the way to honor J. K. Rowling and David Bowie.

And while I love each and every one of those, this look into Stephen King’s life and philosophy should be framed and hanging above ever writer’s desk, safe in a corner, helping readers make sense of this world or imagine new ones.


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