Stephen reveals things about life from one writer's perspective, starting with experiences from his childhood. This story in particular speaks to me:
In junior high, Steve-o turned out a mimeographed "novel version" of Edgar Allen Poe's short story, The Pit and the Pendulum, and sold copies at school for a quarter apiece. He was wildly successful, but it caught up with him at the end of the day.
The principal, Miss Hisler, called him to her office and berated him for turning the school into a marketplace, and for selling trash. . ."What I don't understand, Stevie," she told him, "is why you'd write junk like this in the first place. You're talented. Why do you want to waste your abilities?"
She brandished a rolled up copy in Stephen's face, expecting an answer. And here's his response:
But I had no answer to give. I was ashamed. I have spent a good many years since--too many, I think--being ashamed about what I write. I think I was about forty before I realized that almost every writer of fiction and poetry who has ever published a line has been accused by someone of wasting his or her God-given talent.
It's only going to get worse, too, I just know it.
The writerly part of me mulls things over in a constant way, storing words and phrases, particular ways of saying things, and bits of conversations I pick up. (One of my favorites being, "Hell, Margaret. Just buy him a canned ham. Kevin likes ham.") Now that I've re-committed to novel writing, starting with the ten-year-old manuscript I dug out of the bottom of my closet, (thus the refresher with Stephen King) my head is full of new characters, too, and situations and relationships to sift through. I could live there. There are so many places to go, all in my imagination. Shifting back and forth between worlds is jarring, and annoying to the people around me. It's true. Even though they're nice about it.
But I must do it.
And I have to write my way right through any sense of shame that tells me I'm wasting my time, or that what I'm doing is unimportant. If I want to do it, that's what makes it important.
Maybe you aren't this way about writing. But I know you are this way about something.
So do it.
Because if you don't, you're wasting your talent. And your time. I've probably shared this with you before, if you know me well at all. It's my all-time most favorite quote, and it's by Howard Thurman:
“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
And don't you wonder, as I do, whether Mrs. Hisler ever read any of Stephen's best sellers? I think I'll email and ask.