I started reading On Writing a chapter or so at a time for the past couple weeks. I needed some inspiration. Perhaps some consolation. I intended to post a review. I enjoyed King’s insight, his early failures, his inspirations, his eventual success. I smiled when he equated writing to telepathy, the ability of writers to put thoughts in the heads of readers over a vast span of time and space. King described a rabbit with the number eight on its back; he wrote, “It’s an eight. This is what we’re looking at, and we all see it. I didn’t tell you. You didn’t ask… We’ve engaged in an act of telepathy.” The concept was fun to think about.
But then I reached the middle of the book where he began to speak about the craft of writing. What it means to be a writer, the investment it requires. King wrote, “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.” Of course, I agreed with this. I even agreed with him when he wrote, “When you find something at which you are talented, you do (whatever it is) until your fingers bleed and your eyes are ready to fall out of your head.”
I almost tweeted, “Fuck you, Stephen King.”
Why was I so angry? I was angry because he expected me to read and write for four to six hours a day. Write 2000 words a day, read a novel each week. I was quite proud of my 55K words this year until he talked about the 180K he pumps out in just three months. The implication was that if I did anything less I was either not committed to the craft, or I lacked talent.
If only I scored an early success in the literary lottery, Mr. King. If only I had even a fraction of your bank account, Mr. King. If only I didn’t have to work 12 hours a day just to pay the bills.
I wanted to explain to Mr. King that I wrote most of my first novel while working as a security guard on the night shift. I drank coffee by the pot and I wrote; I acted out scenes in the parking lot with a dozen or so bats swooping over my head. I went straight from there to my job at the registrar’s office helping veterans submit GI Bill claims. Sometimes I went to class. I got home around five and puked out freelance ad copy; I wrote product reviews at $20 a blurb until I fell asleep at the computer. Sometimes I made it into bed before the alarm sounded and another night of guard duty began.
Years later, not much has really changed. Yes, I did add my very own novel to my bookshelf; a few people that aren’t family have even read it. But nowadays I work a day job with an hour-long commute. I eat dinner, catch up on email, and do my own book marketing. I struggle to get an hour at the computer to write; my goal is a measly 500 words a day. I fall asleep with my Kindle on my lap; my battery life is horrendous and the damn thing thinks it takes me four hours to read a single page.
I wanted to ask Mr. King that if all of that isn’t commitment, what is? I wanted to scream, “You suck, Stephen King!”
And then… Stephen King contacted me… Telepathically.
He said, “Toughen up, cupcake.”
The words vibrated through my skull. I looked around the room and no one was there but me. My phone and the computer were both off. I was reading a paper copy of his book since my Kindle was still charging.
I thought, “Why are you so mean and condescending, Mr. King? Why crush my dreams?”
He said, “I’m a bully. I like bullying writers.”
I thought, “You make me so angry. What do you do when you are not destroying inferior writers?”
“I kill kittens and harvest their blood for my fountain pen.”
“You are evil, Stephen King.”
“What did you expect? I’m Stephen-fucking-King. Are we done here?”
And that was all. The voice was gone. I sat in the dark of my office and wondered if I had imagined it all. It didn’t matter though. Mr. King had won. Those few chapters of his book angered me so much that I pounded out this blog out at 1:19 A.M. after I slogged through about 1500 words of my second novel. Yes, he inspired me to triple my productivity. I will probably have to give up sleep and jeopardize my job. But, I am a writer. Writer’s write. I’ll keep churning out words in hopes I finally arrange them in some divine order. Thank you, Mr. King. I guess.
“You’re welcome. Now stop whining and keep writing.”