Happy Birthday, Stephen King!

I was a secret Stephen King reader starting in ninth grade when I had access to a high school library. Already a big horror fan, I knew I was going to read King eventually, but my mother kept telling me I wasn’t old enough. I understood why she thought so, but since I checked them out and read them anyway, I can look back and see that, yes, I could handle them just fine. I read Carrie first, which seems appropriate. As you might imagine, I was hooked.

King is still my go-to author, my comfort food, my security blanket. For all the gore and awkward sex (poor man, you can tell it’s not his favorite), he’s very much Uncle Stevie to his fans. He’s just so … comfortable. I regularly read and re-read his books — IT and The Shining are particularly well-worn.

And for writers, well, he’s a writer’s writer. He’s not the best writer in the world by any means. But he’s one of the best storytellers, and his joy and pain and everything in between comes through. You love reading his stories because he loves writing them. Even his lesser works can be a pleasure to sink into. And the voice that he brings, it’s pure Uncle Stevie. It’s why I will always recommend his On Writing to writers, in spite of my general opposition to writing textbooks and manuals.

Stephen King taught me that it’s okay to be afraid of all of the things, and that to write about them is to love the things you’re afraid of, and that makes it better.

He taught me about the worst of people and the best of people.

He taught me to write unflinchingly. This is such an important part of my decision as a writer, not to fade out on the things that are imperative to display just because they make me or my audience uncomfortable.

He taught me to write what I love rather than what I think other people want me to write. Again, this is one of my main principles as a writer, one that I have to remind myself of all the time. I write genre fiction. I write where the story takes me. I write to love writing and reading over what I’ve written. There’s no point in it becoming a chore or a job. As it’s said, if you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.

And he taught me never to apologize for what I love, reading or writing. I’m still working on that, since I’m convinced I have no artistic taste. I keep telling myself I don’t need taste if tasteless things make me happy.

Stephen King has meant a lot so much to so many readers and writers. It seems only appropriate to wish him a very happy birthday. I may never get to meet him in person, but his proximity means nothing to his influence. Thank goodness I’ll be able to discover more of his stories all throughout my life. Did you know I still haven’t read any of the Dark Tower series?

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