The Quotable King: Go to Work

I think Stephen King is a veritable fountain of writerly wisdom, and much of that wisdom has been compiled in his excellent book On Writing. (Yes, I’m gonna plug the book every time.) He also dispenses useful advice (and criticism) in the form of quotes, many of which I find very inspirational. King’s quotes are honest, even blunt, and that’s why I dig them. Case in point, the following quote says a lot, I think, about how King views a career in writing.

He says:

“Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.”

– Stephen King

I think people sometimes romanticize the job of writing, and there ain’t nothin’ romantic about this quote, just King’s patented brand of truth. He’s talking about the cold, hard reality of being a working writer. If you want to be a working writer, the kind who has deadlines and obligations, the kind that gets paid for meeting those deadlines and obligations, then you have to write, and you have to do it whether you feel like it or not. You have to–you guessed it–treat it like a job.

I’ve been lucky enough to turn writing into a career, and I love what I do, but the truth is some days I don’t want to sit in front of my computer and pound out the words. I want to play video games or watch baseball or do literally anything else besides write. It’s why this particular quote resonates with me so much. On those days when inspiration is nowhere to be found, I remind myself that what I want, what I’ve always wanted, is to be part of the “rest of us” King is talking about, and to do that, I have to get off my ass and go to work.

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

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.