I first became interested in Stephen King not by reading his novels, but by reading his book On Writing. I was in my late 20s and finishing up my bachelor’s degree in education. I had an English minor with one more composition class to take. To fulfill this requirement, I found myself in a creative writing class.
I wrote to my heart’s content in that class, until I finally confessed in my journal that I had always wanted to be a writer but was talked out of it. That was when my professor gave me Stephen King’s book to read and I eagerly devoured it. I learned then that King has a lot of wisdom for aspiring writers, but the truth is that he also has a lot of relevant quotes for everyone.
The quotes that I am about to share can be found—with many other words of wisdom from Stephen King—on the Chris Jones Blog, Positive Writer, and Brainy Quote. Here are some of my favorite Stephen King quotes:
1. “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 realized that almost every writer of fiction or 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.”
This quote speaks about writing, but it also says a great deal about the lack value that society sees in escapism. Reading fiction is an escape. It can be a much more vibrant escape than watching television or movies, and a much healthier escape than drugs or alcohol. There are times when all of us need a break from the world, to give our minds a rest. A great novel can do just that.
2. “Fiction is the truth inside the lie.”
This is an excellent quote, because, again, it speaks to the value of fiction. We often think of fiction as “just stories,” but every story tells a lesson about life. Often, the messages behind the stories that we read are more powerful truths than anything we read in the newspaper.
3. “Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid, or making friends. In the end, it’s about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life, as well.”
Stephen King said some wonderful things about writing, and this quote is especially powerful. Writing is first and foremost about the writer. It is a need that a person has, and it is a passion that enriches the writer’s life. Of course, this has the fringe benefit of bringing growth and happiness that is contagious. When we read something that is written from the heart, we can’t help but be changed by it.
4. “Let me say it again: You must not come lightly to the blank page.”
This quote is about writing, but it applies to all of life. It is about acting with intention. We should think about what we are doing at all times and move with a purpose. So often we travel through life mindlessly, and in doing so we miss out on the opportunity to create something amazing.
5. “The scariest moment is always just before you start.”
Many times in life, we find ourselves standing on the diving board, ready to jump into the pool. This moment before we jump is terrifying. Once we begin, once we start taking steps toward our goal, it is much less scary.
6. “You can, you should, and if you’re brave enough to start, you will.”
Again, starting is half the battle. Being willing to take that leap is the move that takes the most courage. After doing that, persevering through obstacles is nothing. If you are willing to take the leap and willing to never give up, you will eventually experience success.
7. “Optimism is a perfectly legitimate response to failure.”
Failure is such an arbitrary and meaningless concept. Who decides what constitutes a failure or a mere setback? We are ultimately the ones who declare “failure,” and we definitely have the option see things differently. If we view failure as yet another obstacle to overcome, learn from whatever went wrong, then get back up and try, we will be once more on the road to success.
8. “Monsters are real, and ghosts are real too. They live inside us, and sometimes, they win.”
The only monsters that exist live inside us. They are those voices in our minds that tell us we can’t do it, that we aren’t good enough. They are the voices that compare us to others, the voices that become jealous. But, what we don’t understand is that these voices are saying what they do in misunderstanding. If we clear up the misunderstandings that our minds have, then the monsters will never win.
9. “Life isn’t a support system for art. It’s the other way around.”
Art exists because of life, but art also influences and enriches life. The goal of anyone who creates is to make something that will challenge the views of the person seeing it. Sometimes, this is a comfortable experience, and sometimes it is not. If something that has been created causes you to feel anything—joy, happiness, sadness, or even anger—then the creator has done their job.
10. “Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.”
When you want to do something, the key is to just get up and do it. So many people have great ideas for starting businesses, writing books, creating websites, and more. And so many of these people have not even taken the first step toward making their vision a reality. The perfect moment will never come. The key is to just get started anyway.
11. “Sometimes you have to go on when you don’t feel like it, and sometimes you’re doing good work when it feels like all you’re managing is to shovel shit from a sitting position.”
Persevering is key in life. There will be days when you don’t want to get out of bed, when you are in the mood to just walk away from it all. But to be successful, you have to keep moving. On these days, the answer is to focus deeply on what needs to be done and just keep taking one step after another.
12. “The trust of the innocent is the liar’s most useful tool.”
There is a danger in being too trusting, in not questioning all that you see and hear. Not everything that is published is gospel truth, and not every word that is spoken on television should be believed. The most vulnerable people are those who are easily misled. Take the time to check the facts, and question everything that does not seem right to you.
13. “Only enemies speak the truth; friends and lovers lie endlessly, caught in the web of duty.”
We all want to protect those we love. Sometimes, that means telling white lies, or even larger lies, in an effort to keep them from getting upset. This is how relationships work, and it is our expectation. Sometimes, it takes an “enemy”—someone who senses no duty to protect your feelings—to tell the cold, hard truth. Hearing the truth can be a hard pill to swallow, but sometimes it is what we need to hear. Sometimes that wake-up call comes from the most unlikely of sources.
14. “The most important things are the hardest things to say. They are the things you get ashamed of because words diminish your feelings — words shrink things that seem timeless when they are in your head to no more than living size when they are brought out.”
Words are powerful, but there are so many experiences that defy explanation. Explaining to someone how much you love them, expressing condolences, or advocating for a cause you believe in can be extremely difficult, because finding the right words to convey the passion that is in your heart is nearly impossible. As incredible a tool as language is, it can’t come close to expressing the experiences that make up this thing that we call life.
15. “We make up horrors to help us deal with the real ones.”
Fiction is escapism. We read and we create in order to help us escape from the challenges in life, and sometimes we choose to read and write tragic and horrific stories to help us deal with the horrible events that occur in reality. It doesn’t matter how difficult or easy our lives may seem on the outside, the truth is that each one of us has lived through the worst experience that we have even seen. All we have is our experience, and sometimes taking our mind off it can help us to cope and to process.
16. “A lot of us grow up and we grow out of the literal interpretation that we get when we’re children, but we bear the scars all our life. Whether they’re scars of beauty or scars of ugliness, it’s pretty much in the eye of the beholder.”
Nobody gets through life unscathed. We are all affected by our experiences, and we develop vulnerabilities and misunderstandings as a result. We can choose to see ourselves as “damaged,” or we can choose to see ourselves as survivors who are learning and growing everyday. Whether our scars are physical or emotional, we can choose to see them as scars of beauty, rather than as scars of ugliness.
Everybody has a great deal to teach about life, if we are willing to learn the lessons. Stephen King teaches not only through his stories, but also through the wisdom that he shares directly. I am grateful that I read that book in college, and that I chose to learn the lessons found within.
Featured photo credit: Public Domain Pictures via publicdomainpictures.net