Friday, March 14, 2008

On Success

Between pages 60 and 80 of Stephen King's ON WRITING he relays three stories of his early success: Selling his short story "Sometimes They Come Back" for $500; the hardcover rights to CARRIE for $2500; and the paperback rights to CARRIE for $400,000.

I get choked up every time I read or listen to these stories. It's not because of the money, although those are certainly chokable amounts. Hell, they could choke a deep-throated mastodon.

Instead, it's because of what has come before. King gives us the portrait of a little boy with a dangerously inventive older brother and a long history of illness, a boy who grew up reading comic books and watching "poepictures," who got into trouble, got drunk, fell in love and had kids. And all the while, he was writing. Writing a lot. He wrote what he enjoyed and picked up advice along the way. He got better and he got published. It seemed that the Kings were always just making ends meet. Y'know, just like us.

It's a little ridiculous to say, but sometimes you forget. We use big names like Stephen King as icons, to compare yourself and other authors to, both critically and financially. But he had a beginning, just like everyone else. He has a family, just like everyone else. And he writes, just like you and I. What's the difference? According to King himself (and I'm paraphrasing here, I can't find it in the book right now) it is "a lot of hard work, perseverance, and a little bit of talent."

Mr. King, may a follow (very remotely) in your footsteps.

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