The small differences between Stephen King and me

Living in Arizona means there are many more hot days than cold days, no big secret there. And it’s not so bad in the long run, but for someone who loves writing when it’s cold outside, that’s a bummer. I love it when there’s a fire in the hearth or even a heater running, warm tea by my side (or a glass of good single malt Scotch). The words seem to flow and the energy that comes in through the window with the chill air is electric.

Now, as I sit here my mind wanders to great writers, prolific writers and I come to the conclusion that there are only a few small differences between Stephen King and me. (Just a few, you say? Yes, follow along.) First, his fiction has been published. Yes, I know this is a big one. And although I have been published in plenty of nonfiction, I haven’t sent my fiction out there just yet, but I intend to remedy this difference very soon. Then there will be even less difference between me and Stephen, J.K., Ernest and more.

Third, and this is a bigger one…he lives in Maine. It’s cold there and it even snows, and he’s got the fire going, a glass of Scotch, pine trees outside the window, etc. Now, of course I’m only imagining this since Stephen hasn’t yet invited me to his place in Maine (Notice I said yet. I’m keeping the door open on that one). But in my head, that’s what it looks like. And in my head, that’s why he writes so much and so well. The energy of the cool air and the sound of the wind through the trees, even the crackling of the fire behind him in the hearth only add to his creativity. (OK, I know his history and he wrote at a desk between the washer and dryer in a small apartment, but I like to believe that’s all made up. I need a fantasy, so shut up!)

It’s a cool, breezy day here in Arizona, one of the last of the season and I’m taking full advantage of it. I have my tea (it’s still early), the windows are open and the breeze is chilly and crisp. There’s even a chance of rain, which makes me giddy with anticipation. So I close off this blog post in order to use the rest of this splendid weather and write. Hmm, I wonder if there’s room near the washer and dryer for my desk…

 

Do we really hate other writers?

Along with reading a novel from an aspiring writer as a favor, I’ve been watching one of my favorite movies a lot lately. Midnight in Paris, one of Woody Allen’s best in my opinion, has some great dialogue and a beautiful plot line. I love the characters, and the dream-like romp in 1920s Paris, complete with Gertrude Stein, Picasso, and of course, Hemingway.

One scene in particular stands out for me. The main character, strangely transported to Paris in the 1920s, has a chance to meet Hemingway in a bar. After a little small talk, he asked Papa if he’ll take a look at his novel and give him his opinion. Hemingway’s response?

“My opinion is I hate it,” he says.

“But you haven’t even read it yet,” Gil says.

“If it’s bad, I’ll hate it because I hate bad writing,” Hemingway explains. “If it’s good, I’ll be envious and hate it all the more. You don’t want the opinion of another writer.”

This quote really made me think. Is this true? As writers, we always seek feedback from other writers, we want insights, criticism and tips, right? I’ve had great feedback from friends who were writers, but we were also good friends way before the reading began. I admit I do feel a little apprehensive about sending my work out there for writers to comment if I don’t know them well.

Now, as I read the novel of a newly acquainted writer, I’m thinking how great his book is, and how jealous I am. Yes, I admit it, I’m jealous because it is pretty good. But, I don’t think I hate it because it’s good. I just wish I’d written something this good, although it’s not my genre so there’s no way I would have.

Confusing enough? My question is this…do we hate other writers who are successful? Do we secretly envy their success? Or does it make us just that much more determined to go out and do the same thing? I’ve heard other writers say, “If Stephanie Meyer can do it with that, I can certainly do better.” Well, what are you waiting for? Sometimes the difference between the published writer and the unpublished writer is not the quality of their writing but their determination to get it out there.