11.02.2006

Finding Inspiration Amongst a Master... And the Struggle to Hold On

Last night, in front of a crowd of about 1500 (with my friend Bart and I among them), Stephen King made his long-awaited appearance. One of only four cities on his tour list, Seattle welcomed him enthusiastically. It was the fulfillment of something I'd wished for ever since I was a curious eleven-year-old delightedly soaking up my first "grown-up" novel entitled "Misery." Of course, at that age, any book that had cuss words and any kind of an adult situation would be looked upon by a sixth-grader as literary genius, but as I progressed through adulthood with that same voracious admiration for his work, I began to appreciate his true talent as an author. King's ability to take a most mundane situation and spin it into a complex, profound tapestry of characters and story infused a strong foundation of humanity is unique only to the best of writers. He is often discredited as a hack because of his wide appeal and availability to a vast audience of mainstream readers, but he is a unique gem in a genre full of trumpery jewelry.

But how was the lecture? Did waiting 2 months for one night pay off? Quite simply, it very much did. Stephen King speaks the way he writes, and that is to say he loves fleshing out his points with funny anecdotes, and peppering them with a good pinch of irreverence and self-deprecation. As I was watching him speak last night, trying to conceptualize that this was THE guy, I noted the complete lack of ostentatiousness. In a faded black t-shirt, worn-out jeans, and a pair of scuffed tennis shoes, he projected the image not of a man with an empire worth millions of dollars, but as someone who got where he was simply by loving the craft and not bending for anyone.

The night was simply inspiring. As he explained his approach to writing, I noticed that it so mirrored my own that I felt not only validated, but encouraged. He compared some author's styles to the way that the United States launches missles. Very guided and precise, they know exactly where they are going. King compared his own style to North Korea. And as we all laughed at that joke, I just wanted to stand up and yell to him: "You have no idea how good it makes me feel to hear that!!"

The art of fiction writing has evaded me off and on for the last ten years, mostly due to the preconceived notion that my approach to the project was all wrong, and when I would hit a dead end, I would become deflated. I fly blind most of the time, and even though I have a glimmer of something that happens in a character's life down the road, connecting the dots is the difficult part, but I never looked at these obstacles as opportunities, and it was my own pessimism that was holding me back. King's writing talent isn't the only thing that capulted him into the stratosphere of success; it was also his optimism.

I don't want to lose this energy I have right now. I admit that I fall prey more and more easily to the trap of blogging, one that my dear friend Army and I have discussed quite often as an addiction to the instant gratification of rapid publishing as well as the prompt feedback on our work. It's also something in which eternal procrastinators such as ourselves can find solace, because we can finish it and feel that we've actually accomplished something, all while our major labors of love languish in the depths of our imaginations. Sometimes we need to just stop thinking and start doing.

What a fantastic experience this was. After reading this author's work for over half my life and finally experiencing his personality up close, I am more confident than ever that I picked the right role model.

10 comments:

  1. Love the King...But I cannot watch Misery again...Love the movie but I get worn out from cringing so much.

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  2. If the movie made you cringe, the book will undoubtedly make you vomit. The book-version Annie Wilkes definition of "hobbling" is much more greusome. LOL

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  3. I've read many of Stephen King's books and have enjoyed most of them. He deserves to be where he is today after all the hard work he's done. Great post, Allie!

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  4. Thanks so much for sharing this - and showing us the humanity of a man who to most is more an icon than a human being. Well done!

    Tom

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  5. I knew it wouldn't be disappointing! I am also glad to hear that that's the way he writes. Half the time I have no clue where I'm going either.

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  6. Don't stop blogging though, ok?

    I love the way you write, and I'm sure it was a treat to see and hear Mr. King.

    I'm kind of an odd case. I am a conservative Christian man, but I love Steven King. His book "On Writing" is the best I've read so far.

    It was written much like you describe his talk, unassuming and like he was in the room with me. I respond more to "real" people like him, although I may differ greatly with him in my opinions on certain things.

    It bothers me that he's had so many people come down on him about what he writes, and by critics who turn their noses up at him. I mean I don't lose sleep over it, but to me, fiction is all about the escape, and I have read only a few authors who provide that in such a way as Mr. King.

    His "North Korea" comparison hits me too, that's how I'm approaching my first NaNoWriMo this year, just a character, a situation, and let's see where this puppy leads.

    Thanks for the writeup on seeing him. I really like and respect him, if for nothing else, sharing that crazy imagination with us. He's the first author I read that not only sucked me into the story, but also made me laugh. That's worth a lot.

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  7. I'm always a bit in awe of writers who can take a blank page and go without any real outline. I guess it's my journalistic background, but I've always needed a plan before I attack the page.

    King has an imagination that knows no bounds. I wouldn't say I am an unconditional fan because there are things I would change. But the one thing I wouldn't change is the way he uses words to describe the worlds he writes about. I don't think I've ever read another author who has the same ability to use language so evocatively. I remember when I first saw the movie "The Shawshank Redemption" and I knew without reading the book that some of the metaphors had to have come directly from the book. They just had that King about them and I loved that it came through.

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  8. I've not read many of Steven King's works, but I'm a wuss and his suspense just kills me. It's always a treat to see someone who inspires you...I'm so glad you got the opportunity.

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  9. His book On Writing was a fantastic read, and very inspiring to me.

    It sounds like you could benefit from something like National Novel Writing Month. You don't have time to agonize over your work when trying to write a book in 30 days.

    Ian

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  10. King's "Shawshank Redemption" was a work of precise genius with simple and profound storytelling. Much of what he writes does not strike me, but THAT certainly split my noggin.

    I am taking the NanoWrimo plunge. I figured November was a good month to "Get her done"... Perhaps you should consider it, as well?

    I hyperventilated my first moments out, but have taken a few breaths and am happily starting fresh as we speak.

    You are a good writer with a nice easy gate. You should try and cross the finish line with the rest of us crazies...

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