I was in the 7th grade when I first discovered Stephen King. A friend said to me, “Have you read Cujo yet?” Now, I’ve always been a reader. It’s a side-effect of being a military brat. The travel, the enclosed bases, the general boredom of knowing that no matter when you do, your Dad will know about it before you get home – all of these things contributed to my love of reading. It was a safe way to have an adventure without getting into any trouble. But I will admit, I didn’t have any idea what book she was talking about.
That was 1981. Cujo hadn’t been out long. But the school library had it, so I checked it out and I read it in two days. And when I finished it, I went back to the library and checked out everything else they had by Stephen King. Then I sought out everything I could find, and when I finished those, I waited impatiently for the each of the next books to come out.
I was hooked, but more than being hooked, I wanted to write the way King does.
I wanted to tell stories that captivated readers the way his stories captivated me. What started then has turned into a life-long writer crush on a master story teller. So naturally, whenever I find a new interview with King, I read it. Sometimes several times.
I was thrilled last week to find a blog post, written by Neil Gaiman about writing advice from Stephen King. It’s an old post; from 2012. But it still had some new information that I’ve never heard from King about the craft of writing. Particularly, this tidbit:
“I never think of stories as made things; I think of them as found things. As if you pull them out of the ground, and you just pick them up.”
In the interview, he’s speaking specifically about how his stories come together; about how sometimes he just has to wait until the pieces of the story fall into place. It describes, almost perfectly for me, how I feel about writing. Sometimes, I just need to wait until the pieces come together to write a story. Sometimes, the act of writing the story can make the pieces fall together.
I also believe that stories are found things. Some germ of an idea that we stumble upon during our daily life causes us writerly-types to begin thinking about possibilities. As we think through the why’s and what-if’s a story starts to take shape. We’re not making them. We’re finding them. Or at least, that is how it is for me.
This is why after all these years, I still have a writer’s crush on Stephen King. I haven’t read one of his books in a while (I’m a terrible chicken now that I’m starting to realize my own mortality). But I still pay particular attention when I find something new that King has said about writing. I haven’t managed to become as successful as King, but I haven’t given up hope yet. Who knows? It could happen. Until then, I’ll continue to practice the one lesson that I learned from King early on. Write what you love. I love the stories that I write. They are the stories that I need to write.
Who is your writer’s crush? Why? Share your answers in the comments below.