Stephen King is the author of more than fifty books, all of them worldwide bestsellers and many of his stories have been made into wildly popular movies and television series. If anyone is familiar with success, it’s Stephen King! Yet, “Stevie” King was also the child of a single mom who worked for less than minimum wages just to make ends meet. By his senior year of high school he was bagging loose fabric at a factory everyday after school and eating cereal for dinner every night. He also had a high school teacher who condemned his work. King says she made him feel ashamed and shame was a feeling with which he became most familiar:
I have spent a good many years…being ashamed about what I write. I think I was forty before I realized 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 fee lousy about it.
This strikes me as so incredibly shocking that I am nearly speechless! A man who has experienced the level of success that Stephen King has expressing shame–not just when he was a kid being chastised by a teacher, but even years later after his work has been hailed by worldwide audiences! That speaks volumes about the extent to which we let others write our stories.
By the way, I am not a Stephen King fan–not in the sense that I read his books or watch his films. Horror is not my preferred genre, but I respect him as a writer and recognize his skill and mastery as an artist. I don’t have to enjoy his particular genre in order to recognize his talent.
But, isn’t that the point? On Monday, I proposed that we resist those who impose their narratives upon us, and yesterday Tanzy shared how her life was altered by others’ perceptions of her. Trouble comes when people who don’t prefer something about us try to change us to suit their preferences rather than recognize what makes us special and simply appreciate it.
It is clear that this is not an isolated issue. Whether rich and famous or just regular folks, we all strive to articulate what it means to be us while constantly speaking back to those who are telling us otherwise. Yet, why should we be ashamed? Why should we hide our gifts because they don’t align with the mainstream? Why should we apologize if our dreams don’t fit neatly into their little boxes? Or if our stories don’t suit their refined tastes?
Perhaps it’s not our stories that need to change.
Chrystal Evans Hurst says “it is your job in this life to know and value what makes you you.” In order to do that you have to release the shame and reclaim the power of the pen. Be bold enough to value who you are, whatever you are–an artist, a dancer, a poet, or a writer. This is your year to reclaim your power and reclaim yourself!
May the force be with you.
cover photo credit: thefamouspeople.com