King’s On Writing: Writing Is Work

Writing is work
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Stephen King knows how hard it is to be a professional writer. I’m sure some of you also relate because you are published or at least have stayed up until 3 a.m. to write a good paper that was due next morning. And it wasn’t easy either.

In sections 19-24, King discusses his earliest work – think editor of The Village Vomit, not Carrie. As he talks about his first jobs, stories, and articles, there’s an important message here: Writing is hard work. It takes dedication, persistence, and passion. In order to succeed, you need these things and support from those around you.

Here are some other highlights:

  • After The Village Vomit debacle, King’s school guidance counselor hooked him up with a paying writing job as a sports writer. While reading, I remembered guidance counselors. What happened to them? I had one in high school who I spoke to once when I was in trouble, and she didn’t guide me to do anything. Do they actually do anything now? King’s counselor did exactly what he was supposed to do; he kept him from causing more trouble and fueled his creativity. He got him a job, encouraged King’s passion, and provided guidance. Other than family, this may have been King’s earliest support system.
  • Do you have an editor? If so, you’ve had your writing ripped to shreds. It’s what we do when we have to. Every professional writer has an editor who makes them a better writer. Journalism and English majors can tell who the exact professor was. And as a writer, you take it. I’ve been in both places, and they’re both hard. The best thing to do is learn from it and not take it personally. It’s not personal, it’s the process. If you don’t want an editor, then start a blog, but if you write professionally, remember to handle criticism well and hone your skills.
  • You may have to work a day job or crap job. King’s first real-paying job was dyeing cloth at a mill. His schedule was long and tedious, and anyone who has had to work while going to school gets it. It’s hard work, but it makes you strong and you appreciate the good jobs that come your way. I could relate most to this because I worked full time, went to college full time, and had a family to support. Looking back, I have no idea how I did it, and I hope I never have to be that exhausted again. However, it was worth every minute. I’ve learned so much, and a good work ethic isn’t something you can buy – it’s a natural ability.
  • And it’s that natural work ethic the drew King to his long-time wife Tabitha (aside from her gorgeous legs and “raucous laugh”). This is where the support system comes in. Every artist, whether a writer, painter, musician, designer, needs support. They need to be loved and have someone to love. Sometimes you need a push, and only that person can provide it. For example, many King fans know Tabitha rescued pages from Carrie from the trash and pushed him to finish it. Every artist needs someone to believe in their work.

We’d love to hear about your writing experiences, including those naggy editors and good guidance counselors, in the comments below!

King’s On Writing: The Intro

Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft is one of my favorite books ever. I’m on my second read and didn’t realize how much I enjoy his honesty and advise on writing, ideas, and life in general.

I decided to review it after one of our featured artists – Kevin Litwin – mentioned what the book meant to him and how it helped him as a writer. The light bulb went off, and I thought … what a great book to review!

So, here’s the intro. The book is not your traditional how-to write; it’s his story about what influenced him and how he got to where he is today. It’s not organized by chapters, rather sections that feel like stream of conscious but flow very well. Each section builds on one another, and you can easily read a couple of pages, laugh, and get back to life. You may not want to put it down though, so consider yourself warned…

I’ve always wondered what made famous writers famous. It’s not the writing quality (sometimes unfortunately), it’s not based on pop culture or what’s in style. Before everyone knew King, no one did. I’ve decided it’s the storytelling and its delivery.

With that said, here are some highlights and things I learned from the first 10 sections:

We tend to remember the traumatic events more than the good times. I’m sure psychologists would say because we are scarred and do not heal, they have more of a lasting effect. Maybe that’s true, and I definitely think it makes a writer better. Writers use that negative energy to tell their story and heal themselves.

We need the bad and the good. The hard times help us appreciate the good ones. They evoke emotion – negative or not – that we need to feel and act human. Artists have to have a muse, and no matter what, emotion is our muse. Certain things evoke the emotions we need, but at the core emotion fuels art.

Get ready to toughen up. I won’t spoil too much, but King refers to not being scared of literary critics thanks to a 200-pound babysitter farting on his face when he was a young boy. (Words wouldn’t scare anyone after something like that!) The point is if you plan to put yourself out there, get ready for people to talk about it. People love commenting – on everything.

Imagination is a wonderful thing. Think of some great fiction writers, Dr. Seuss, J.K. Rowling, Shakespeare, King, and think about what you love about their writing. It’s not because it’s grammatically correct or a best seller, it’s the creativity they put into the story. It’s their incredible imaginations flowing onto hundreds of pages that create a world for the reader. That’s imagination.

Be yourself. I’ve discussed this many times, and the more I learn, the more I realize how true it is. No one cares about your education or social class. No one cares where you came from or who you know. If you pour your heart, soul, and everything that is you into something, people will notice and appreciate you for it.

This week I challenge you to a writing exercise: Pick something that evoked a strong emotion – good or bad – and write about it. No one has to read it, just let the emotions pour out onto the page. What happened and how you really felt about it. Don’t be afraid. Who knows, maybe it’ll turn into something great!

Most Underrated Horror Movie: 1408

To continue this week’s discussion, I picked a movie that viewers either love or hate, 1408. There is no middle ground. People either give it one or seven to eight stars, and here’s why:

Many reviewers complain it’s not scary enough; the story drags; too many jump scares; not enough blood and guts; it’s not The Shining (of course not because it’s not); and the complaints go on…

1408 (2007) starring John Cusack and is based on a Stephen King short story. As many of you know, Hollywood doesn’t always do a great job with King’s stories. Many B- and C-list actors star in them, so the acting is pretty awful sometimes, and the special effects are often cheesy and cheap.

The movie 1408 is different. Although it only scores a metascore of 68/100 and 78% (audience 61%) on Rotten Tomatoes, don’t let that deter you. This is a great horror movie, and yes, it is a horror movie. It classifies as psychological horror and tries to do more than scare the audience.

Why is it underrated?

Those who did not like this movie didn’t get it, or it was simply not their thing. It’s a psychological thriller, which means the scares come from and warp the mind. Demonic creatures do not climb on ceilings and serial killers do not stalk teenagers. The movie, and the room specifically, uses our darkest moments and personal demons against us.

The best things:

I am a little bias because of three things: Samuel L. Jackson, Tony Shalhoub, and Stephen King. I love all three of these gentlemen for various reasons, so any project that includes all of them automatically wins brownie points. Jackson has a classic line and delivers it only like he can, “It’s an evil $%&*ing room.” Shalhoub plays a slimeball agent who gets Cusack into the room despite all odds. I can’t help but love Shalhoub in those roles. Then there’s King – one of my favorite writers.

Secondly, the story is refreshing and different. In 2007, we had a decent variety of horror movies premiere including 30 Days of Night and lots of sequels like Hostel Part II, 28 Weeks Later, and The Hills Have Eyes 2, and the epic Paranormal Activity. Aside from PA, most movies have been done before or rely on the predecessor’s success. This is where 1408 was different. It was a haunted hotel room that took Cusack’s nightmares and turned them into reality. Imagine being locked in a room with the things that haunt you the most. This is that movie. It forces you to imagine yourself in that situation and makes you think.

Reviewers also complain it’s another King movie about a writer. Guess what? King is a writer, and he expresses himself in his stories! King finds hotel rooms creepy, and puts his own fears and discomforts into the story. In fact, there are direct lines from the short story in the movie. And that is why he is the master he is. Any writer who truly pours their heart and fears into something writes more than just words on a page. They write a masterpiece.

What horror movies do you find underrated? Share them in the comments below!