The Stephen King Experience
The Stephen King Experience

The Stephen King Experience

Way back in Octo­ber, prob­ably in response to my Chats With Cool Folk #3 with Danette and James, I ordered Steph­en King’s On Writ­ing from the lib­rary. I have nev­er read a Steph­en King nov­el, and haven’t seen many of the movies. They’re just not my thing. I saw Car­rie way back when, and the Shawshank Redemp­tion is bril­liant. Same with Stand By Me, which I did­n’t even know was based on a King story. Oh, and of course I saw The Doc­tor’s Case, (as we dis­cussed in that chat with James and Danette). Any­way, regard­less of what he writes I have heard over and over that his book On Writ­ing is a must-read. The book finally arrived and I star­ted read­ing it last night. He talks about a time in the 8th grade when he and a buddy went to the movies and saw Edgar Allen Poe’s The Pit and the Pen­du­lum. He was so struck by it that he decided to write the, as he called it, the “nov­el ver­sion”… He prin­ted it off, in his words, “bliss­fully unaware that I was in viol­a­tion of every pla­gi­ar­ism and copy­right stat­ute in the his­tory of the world.” (S. King’s On Writ­ing, Pg. 48). And he sold them at school. A teach­er caught the situ­ation and called a halt, made him give back all the money he’d made.

Worst of all, this teach­er said to him, and I’ll just read this to you:

 ‘What I don’t under­stand, Stevie,’ she said, ‘is why you’d write junk like
this in the first place. You’re tal­en­ted. Why do you want to waste your abil­it­ies?’ 

And then I’ll just skip a little bit… It goes on to say,

She waited for me to answer. To her cred­it the ques­tion was not entirely
rhet­or­ic­al, but I had no answer to give. I was ashamed. I’ve spent a good
many years since, too many I think, being ashamed about what I write. I think I
was forty before I real­ised that almost every writer of fic­tion and poetry who has
ever pub­lished a line has been accused by someone of wast­ing his or her god-
giv­en tal­ent. If you write. Or paint, or dance, or sculpt, or sing, I suppose,
someone will try to make you feel lousy about it. That’s all. I’m not editorializing,
just try­ing to give you the facts as I see them.

And then skip a little bit more, and he just fin­ishes up that section:

In my heart I stayed ashamed. I kept hear­ing Miss Hissler ask­ing why I wanted
to waste my tal­ent, why I wanted to waste my time, why I wanted to write junk.

(S. King’s On Writ­ing, Pg. 49/50).

What strikes me about this is that it is so relatable.Have you been told you’re wast­ing your tal­ent? or your time?

Have you ever been made to feel ashamed for the choices you’ve made? For your hob­bies? The music you like? The movies or books you like?

I mean they’re choices right? And who is to say that the work you’re doing is junk? In whose opinion?

Don’t listen to them. Like I said to the kids who used to make fun of my pants in Juni­or High school, “Don’t like them? Don’t look at them. Cer­tainly don’t wear them.”

Deal­ing with those twits was­n’t dif­fi­cult because I really truly did not give a shit about their opin­ion on my pants.

It was, I’ll admit, more dif­fi­cult to deal with my neg­at­ive influ­ence about writ­ing Fantasy because so often the biggest influ­en­cers in our lives are people we hold aloft in some way, we admire them. So when they pass on neg­at­ive com­ments, we tend to believe them.

The trick is recog­niz­ing it for what it is so that you can turn the volume down on that per­son. It took me a long time to even notice it was hap­pen­ing. But when I finally did, I made the decision to stop need­ing that per­son’s affirm­a­tion. Coz I was­n’t ever going to get it.

I wish you all the strength you need to recog­nize those neg­at­ive influ­ences, and to turn their volume down.