Stephen King gets held up all the time as the penultimate successful writer, the multimillionaire never impoverished by a lack of words that would sell. But he’s struggled in his writing life, both at the beginning in the 1970s and much more recently, when he said he’d dried up as an artist.
The struggle in the beginning is more relevant to most of us who are still in pursuit of that first good book. In his confessional On Writing, he reports that when he started Carrie, “I wasn’t having much success with my own writing, either. Horror, science fiction, and crime stories in the men’s magazines [King wrote for what he calls “tittie books” in the 70s] were being replaced by increasingly graphic tales of sex. That was part of the trouble, but not all of it. The bigger part was that, for the first time in my life, writing was hard.”
King was teaching grade-school English to pay the rent, and “by most Friday afternoons I felt as if I’d spent the week with jumper cables clamped to my brain . If I ever came close to despairing about my future as a writer, it was then.” That was after King had earned $500 for a short story he figured would never sell, a munificent sum for a story both then, in the early 70s, as well as now.
But at the close of his book, he claims nearly all of his writing has never been for the money. “Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid, or making friends,” he says. “It’s about enriching the the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life, as well.”