5 Things That Writers Can Learn from Stephen King
I remember the first time I read Carrie, the debut novel from Stephen King. I was younger than I probably should have been, found the nights darker and longer because of it but was also completely enthralled by each word. It was one of the first novels I can remember reading like a ravenous beast. I just couldn’t put it down until I knew what was going to happen next.
I’ve been a huge fan of Stephen King ever since, and when I decided to venture into writing, I often found myself thinking, What would Stephen King do? The five quotes that follow, written by Mr. King himself, are words I reread to myself often. I come back to them when the darkness is heavy, when I lose my way. Lessons I’ve learned, but oftentimes need to be reminded of.
Maybe you’ve heard them as well, and this will be a refresher, or maybe they will be new. Either way, I think they are gold—words from a man who has been walking the road a long time. Whether you’re a King fan or not, these lessons are helpful to remember.
- “Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration; the rest of us just get up and go to work.”
As writers we often get trapped here, waiting for the Muse to come and show us the way. We often believe the things we have to say aren’t very good unless they are inspired by some greater force, but I’ve learned that words are always better written down on the page than lost in the atmosphere.
The hardest part is just to start. Start writing, and then write every day that follows until you are finished. Inspired or not, do the work, make the time, write even when the Muse is on vacation.
- “By the time I was fourteen the nail in my wall would no longer support the weight of the rejection slips impaled upon it. I replaced the nail with a spike and went on writing.”
We view failure as such a negative thing, but it isn’t really. It is only a necessary step from one place to the next. And we all face it. Rejection is a part of life. It is the persistence that is important. Picking yourself up and starting again. That is the only way.
- “Description begins in the writer’s imagination, but should finish in the reader’s.”
One of the joys of reading is the way it transports your mind. Stirs your imagination. Writers can steal that joy when they give the reader too much. Write enough to set the scene, to dress it up, and then let the readers fill in the rest. This allows them to make the journey personal and uniquely theirs.
- “You cannot hope to sweep someone else away by the force of your writing until it has been done to you.”
You may have heard people talk about writing as bleeding on the page—an analogy for giving something of yourself to the story. Being honest and transparent so that the reader feels emotion in the words themselves.
My father used to say you need to be screaming on the page so that the reader can hear the whisper. Don’t hold back; give the story everything you have. Put yourself in it authentically. The reader won’t feel it unless you do, plain and simple.
- “Writing is not life, but I think that sometimes it can be a way back to life.”
This is by far my favorite Stephen King quote. The one I identify with most. It reminds me that at the end of the day, when all the reviews are out and the stores are closed, I am writing for only myself. I have to start there, crafting stories and characters that are a reflection of me for the simple love of story. When I stray from this and begin to write for those around me, the story loses its magic, and then I lose mine.
Don’t give your power away. Remember that each story is a journey you chose to take for a reason. It’s for your own benefit or your own suffering, but the beauty is, it is always for you. So write on, friends. Write on!