Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Authority Figures

An excerpt from Stephen King's 'On Writing', where he talks about his school principal's reaction to a story he had adapted from a horror movie and sold stapled copies of the 'book' to his schoolmates when he was in the 8th grade...

""What I don't understand, Stevie," she said, "is why you'd write junk like this in the first place. You're talented. Why do you want to waste your abilities?" She had rolled up a copy of VIB#1 and was brandishing it at me the way a person might brandish a rolled-up newspaper at a dog that has piddled on the rug. She waited for me to answer - to her credit, the question was not entirely rhetorical - 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 forty before I realised 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. If you write (or paint or dance or sculpt or sing, I suppose), someone will try to make you feel lousy about it, that's all. I'm not editorialising, just trying to give you the facts as I see them.

Miss Hisler told me I would have to give everyone's money back. I did so with no argument, even to those kids (and there were quite a few, I'm happy to say) who insisted on keeping their copies of VIB#1. I ended up losing money on the deal after all, but when summer vacation came I printed four dozen copies of a new story, an original called The Invasion of the Star-Creatures, and sold all but four or five. I guess that means I won in the end, at least in a financial sense. But in my heart I stayed ashamed. I kept hearing Miss Hisler asking why I wanted to waste my talent, why I wanted to waste my time, why I wanted to write junk."

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