Stephen King submitted his first story to a magazine aged 13. He didn’t have one published until the (very originally titled) ‘I Was a Teenage Grave Robber’, five years later. Before he reached that milestone, he already had years of work under his belt: writing stories, handing them out to his classmates, reading constantly, starting up a satirical student paper, and dozens upon dozens of knockbacks and rejections.
He’s 70 years old now now. He’s got decades of experiences, millions of words, hundreds of thousands of combinations of sentences and ideas globbing together to form what is an undeniably impressive body of work.
The thing I love about King is that he just doesn’t stop. He’s reached the absolute pinnacle of success, more fame and fortune than any writer could ever dream of – and he’s done it over and over again. He is the embodiment of the idea it’s about the journey, rather than a destination. He has to write.
You could argue that, despite his commercial success, he hasn’t been recognised as a true ‘great’ by the literary world. He has no pretension, describing himself as ‘the literary equivalent of a Big Mac and fries’. But, from his evocative memoir and ‘how-to’ guide on the craft ‘On Writing’, epics like ‘The Stand’ or horror classics like ‘The Shining’, he’s gained even these high-minded, snobbish critics grudging respect. He’s not just churning out crap. His books mean something to millions of people all over the world.
And, with every sentence he writes, he gets better. He’s built his legacy one word at a time – ‘bird by bird’, as Anne Lamott would say.
“Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work.”
So before you moan about how you haven’t made it yet, think about how many hours you’ve actually put into your craft, your business or your career. How much blood have you spilt in pursuit of true excellence? Have you given it all to the practice?
It won’t come easily. But it will be worth it. The accumulation of a body of work is deeply satisfying. That’s why I love writing, and sharing my thoughts with you all. As time goes on, the quantity starts to develop a quality all of it’s own.
Take the hint from Mr. King – get started right now.