Some Book Changed My Life Tonight, Sugar Bear

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I wanted to be an actress when I was younger. New York? Sure. Audition for crummy plays? Totally. Hit it big in a movie? Definitely. That is what I wanted to do with my life. I wanted it so badly that I went to Speech & Drama Camp in Pensacola, Florida.

I was going to get the lead part in the big play and impress everyone. Flowers would be thrown at my feet. I would bow and bow, and the crowd would cheer and cheer.

I stunk so badly that I barely made it through my audition and was cast as a nobody in the main play. I believe my part was to walk in, say my one line, and get off the stage. Sixteen-year-olds took on the stage with Hamlet and Julius Caesar for the first audition. I had skimmed a random monologue on the drive to Florida.

I was shoved in the reject team, Team D, if I recall. (D for dork.) Our team had to come up with a team name, team motto, theme song, and a play. I made many friends in the reject group because, well, I’m hilarious. Apparently, however, making animal noises during play practice is not something the drama coaches love to hear. I got in trouble a lot. Look, I was a disgruntled former actress, okay?

But then something happened.

I wrote our team’s theme song, motto, and a play. Something that I had done naturally since I was eight or nine suddenly became beautiful to me—writing. It was something I always did, but I never really thought about it being a career. I never thought about falling in love with writing.

When I came back from camp, I checked out every single book the library had on writing. I honestly read all of them. The young adult section only had so many options, but I didn’t care. I had to learn everything about writing. I had to breathe it in.

I picked up Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. I wasn’t ever allowed to read Stephen King novels, so I wasn’t sure what to expect.

It changed everything I ever knew about being a writer.

I will never forget that book cover. Stephen King leans back in his office chair, with his feet propped on top of his desk. A dinosaur of a computer is seen in the background. Pictures of his family are tacked to a bulletin board. King writes in a journal. But what got me was the look on his face. There’s just barely a smile there. One could’ve offered him the world, so to speak, and King would’ve waved him off and said, “No, no. My world is right here on this page.” He looked like the most contented man in the world.

The first half of his memoir is about his childhood and how he came in to writing. The second half is full of wonderful advice for writers—what to avoid and what to embrace. He famously quotes, “The road to hell is paved with adverbs.” (I hope someone is smart enough to catch on to what I did there.)

When I finished that book at the age of sixteen, I knew that I wanted to spend the rest of my life writing at my desk with a cup of coffee. I didn’t care if I wrote novels, magazine articles, or short stories—I just wanted to write.

I read Stephen King’s memoir again when I got my first job as a copywriter for a publishing company.

For part two: go here.