The Quotable King: Identifying Talent

Stephen King is one of my favorite authors, and his book On Writing is, in my opinion, one of the best books on the craft you can buy. I like King’s no-bullshit approach to the subject and his blunt appraisal of what writing is and how to get better at it. He’s unpretentious and honest, and I just dig the hell out of that.

King can be pretty quotable too, and some of his quotes have really stuck with me over the years. One of my favorites has made the rounds quite a bit, but once more can’t hurt.

He says:

“If you wrote something for which someone sent you a check, if you cashed the check and it didn’t bounce, and if you then paid the light bill with the money, I consider you talented.”

– Stephen King

I love that quote. I think about it sometimes after a rejection letter or just when self-doubt comes-a-knocking. I wouldn’t call it uplifting; that doesn’t seem to be King’s style. It’s more of a reality check, and it put things in perspective when I’m wallowing in self pity. It awakens that little voice in my head that says, “Hey, dumbass, you’re getting paid to do that thing you love to do. Remember? Get your shit together, and get on with it.” The Stephen King in my head is all about the tough love.

Sure, I’ll concede that getting paid is not the only way to recognize talent, but I think it’s a pretty good indicator of baseline talent, maybe even marketable talent. So, yeah, I’m with King on this one. If someone is willing to pay hard-earned cash for something you wrote, you’ve probably done something right. The trick is figuring out what that “right” is and then repeating it and even improving on it.

I also like this quote because I have paid the light bill with money earned from writing, which, of course, means Stephen King thinks I’m talented. That is what that means, right?

Got a favorite quote from a favorite author? Share it with the class in the comments.

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