You can, you should, and if you’re brave enough to start, you will.
-Stephen King On Writing
I have never been a huge fan of Stephen King. His books are a bit scary and contain a bit too much blood and gore for my liking.
I have, however, read two of his books to the end; Mr Mercedes (a pretty good detective story and Mr King’s first published foray into this genre) and On Writing.
I downloaded On Writing to my Kindle at the beginning of my writing journey. I read it ‘cover to cover’ and loved every bit. In a nutshell, it is Stephen King’s musings on the writing process and is almost autobiographical as he talks a lot about his own journey, but also what, in his opinion, constitutes quality writing.
I must remember to reread it now … I expect I will get a lot more out of it.
Stephen King has a teaching background – high school admittedly (says the primary school teacher who feels high school teachers to be a totally alien breed of people) – but this was one of the qualities that first caught my interest.
The other endearing quality was his blatant honesty and straightforward way of speaking (and writing). There is no beating around the bush; Stephen King says it as it is. He is open about his early attempts at writing; an oft quoted story being that he kept every rejection slip he received and by the time he was 14 the nail in the wall was too small to hold all the slips, so he replaced it with a spike. Reading On Writing and listening to Stephen King speak on YouTube, the first and overarching thing you hear is modesty. The man is a top-selling author, worth millions, but he oozes self-deprecation.
So, when Stephen King gives advice, I listen. (Then, as per my previous blog post, I decide if I agree or not … but I almost always do.)
In the case of the quote which is the subject of this post, I agree 100%. What’s more, I fully believe it is all about the bravery.
Mustering the courage to try something new, go down a different path or trade in the known for the unknown is three-quarters of the battle.
How many people, myself included, have wanted to make a change of some sort? It could be anything from trying a radically different hair colour through to a total career/lifestyle restart. Then, after longing for it, say, “Oh, I can’t … for this, that and the other reason …” (insert whatever works for you here).
Bravery in this sense could refer to a whole range of things:
- Sitting at the hairdressers, butterflies rampaging in your stomach, watching the hairdresser hold up the colour-filled paint brush and feeling a lurch of fear as he makes that ‘no returns’ first swipe of colour onto your hair.
- Pushing your butt tight against the gunnel of the dragon boat, which puts you precariously close to the water and in immediate danger of falling in should the boat tip slightly sideways, the voice in your head is screaming that you’re going to capsize as you and the other women paddle furiously against the waves while the sweep screams, “DO NOT STOP PADDLING … IT’S NOT SAFE YET!” You seriously want to cry, but there’s no turning back because you’re in the middle of the lake and it’s dark.
- Stepping away from your lifelong career, which is dependable with a steady income, into the unpredictable and hard-to-break-into world of writing, not knowing if you’ve ‘got what it takes’ so every night you wake up in a cold sweat having dreamed that you have failed your family and now they are all … add multiple, awful endings here.
I’ve done all of these relatively recently, and am still living them. You could almost say fear is a huge part of my life.
But, I’d rather live with fear (harnessed as a motivator) than regret.