“On Stephen King” by Caitlin Carrigan
I have refused to read a single word written by Stephen King my entire life. The older family members were raving about his books when I was a kid. When I was writing and telling scary stories for the joy of it, everyone said, “go read Stephen King, you’ll love him.” I refused.
Because my great Aunt Doris once told me a story about Stevie King that made the man seem a little too close to home to worship as the rest of the horror world seemed to. My Aunt was the Matron of Tabitha King’s college dorm house and as a result, she interacted with the courting Stevie King on several occasions, noting him to be a sweet boy, with a strange mind (As evidenced by his college magazine short stories). Hearing him referred to by my sweet Aunt stole his mystique for me and I just couldn’t get past it. So I boycotted. Not violently, but vehemently perhaps.
Until this book. It wasn’t horror or the size of The Stand, by any means. It was good, from what people told me so I thought, why not give it a try.
And now we’re back to the fact that this book effing schooled my ass. Stephen King slapped me around with a ruler in this book. I cried three times while reading this, twice with the spirit of inspiration and once while reading the internal turmoil of a man declaring love for his wife in the moments that he believed preceded his death. By some strange act of divine providence, events unfolded in Stephen King’s life while writing this book that resulted in a marinade so tasty you couldn’t replicate it with a hollywood budget.
Now, the real power this book had for me was as a writer. Several sections spoke to me in ways I couldn’t deny.
Though I will not quote him, I will paraphrase the meaning in my own words in order to share my experience.
Firstly, King states that if you aren’t willing to dedicate your time to working (ie writing), if you’re not willing to treat it like a job, a responsibility, then go suck a hose. He goes further by saying a true writer should be dedicating 5-6 hours a day to writing and/or reading. At first I thought, six hours a day just writing, my poor brain! Then I realized reading was a tolerable side hobby and I sighed. A little. Since reading this book, I’ve kept a book by the bedside for reading every night before bed. Am I getting old?
No wiseass, I’m getting awesome.
Secondly, and this was the one that punched me in the face, was a passage on the outputs of other great writers. King mentions writers who produced dozens, if not hundreds of books in their lifetimes. He then mentions the classic by Harper Lee, “To Kill a Mockingbird.” One of my favorite books, it was the only novel Harper Lee ever wrote. King said, and a fine novel it was, and all the power to you if you only write one great novel, BUT (and here he slapped me in the face) he wanted to ask those great writers of ONE fine novel a question.
What were you doing with your time?
Were they knitting, learning to juggle, pressing wild flowers?
“If God gave you the ability to do something, why in God’s name wouldn’t you do it?”
Because I answered his question. I’m not doing a damn thing. When I’m NOT writing, I’m sitting on my ass, doing karaoke, watching True Blood, living half a life because my life doesn’t feel complete when I’m not writing. Sure, I’m a single mother and I have a full and wonderful life, but for everyday that I have down time, I’ve had a chance to work on my novel. For every time that I’ve come up with some lame and ridiculous excuse for why I’m not writing, I’ve managed to deny myself success in a pursuit that I’ve dreamed of since I was a tot. That just isn’t kosher.
So, what have I done to combat that asshat tendency of mine.
I made myself a writing nook. (Antique throne chair and writing desk)
I get up in the morning, preferably at nine, (though I make no claim to be successful in that everyday) and I write until I reach at LEAST 1000 words. Then I can go about the rest of my day. If I skip a day for whatever reason, the next day I write 2000 words. (King suggests you START with 2000 words a day, but I am weening myself up to that. Thinking of making my quota a weekly quota, but I digress)
Now, I am currently working on my first novel. Started it in January of 2009. I wrote about 160 pages within a year and a half. I’d go months without writing, then pump out a few pages and go back to writing sleep. As a result of King’s grand writer’s memoir, I have written 50 pages of my 210 page novel within the last three weeks. At this rate, it will be done or close to completion by Summer’s end.
So, lesson learned from this novel (and from my own pursuits of writing a novel) is that it is more than humanly possible to create something worthwhile, if you are willing to make that worthwhile thing a priority.
Thank you Stephen King.
I’m still not reading The fucking Stand, though.
Reposted from Sleepbeforewaking.com