Never underestimate the power of chance.
Several times over the years when I was younger, I wanted to write. Wanted to. Had no idea how to, and no one to teach me, so I just didn’t do it. One day I was out buying comics and I saw a new Stephen King paperback, THE DARK HALF.
Man, I hadn’t read a King novel in years. Paperbacks back then were $5, so I picked it up along with my comics, and I probably started reading it as soon as I got home. The story of writer Thad Beaumont had me entranced, and although King had been using writers as his main characters for years, he’d never written about them like THIS before.
He made the act of writing, the ritual of it, the business of it, seem almost FUN. And in such an ugly story about such a vile antagonist, that’s saying something.
But, man, did he make writing seem like a blast. And I HAD wanted to write for so long.
You know what, screw it, I’m gonna write something.
I had an idea floating around in my head for weeks. But it took a Stephen King novel about a writer being tormented by his pseudonym to make me actually take that first step and WRITE it. And I never stopped. I finished that story (The Man in the Window), then wrote another one. And another one. And a few more after that. Then several more over the years.
I’ve been writing since 1991, and I sometimes wonder what I would be doing almost 30 years later, today, if I hadn’t read that King novel when I did. If I’d read it five years down the road, would I have started writing? I don’t know. Because I started at a very critical time. I was a few months away from graduating high school and just happened to be in a composition class that year, and that was only because I’d heard it was good prep for college English courses and of course I was going to college, everyone goes to college, right?
I never went to college. But I did keep writing, and I passed that composition class with so much extra credit from WRITING, that taking the final was optional.
But I digress. What would I be doing now, today, if I hadn’t read that book when I did? Because it was a combination of things that happened in the right place at the right time. Not only did that book inspire me to start writing, it was my high school composition teacher who encouraged me to keep going.
Unsure of what I was doing, I asked her to look over it. She liked what I had so far and offered extra credit if I finished it and turned it in. And it was on that story that I fell in love with the process.
While I’ve always believed in free will, I have also always said “the universe is right on schedule”, which I realize is a contradiction to free will, but I believe some things are just meant to be.
But are they meant to be no matter what, or does it take a chance encounter with a random paperback (I could have seen ANY King paperback I hadn’t read yet that day, but I saw the one that inspired me to take the first step and WRITE something) to set me on the course I was supposed to be on? Or is chance an illusion and there was no way I wasn’t going to find that book on that day?
I don’t know. That’s a question for people much smarter than me.
All I know is, I was out buying comics, I saw this King novel I hadn’t read yet, I bought it, read it, it inspired me, and here I am almost 30 years later, still sitting down at my desk every day, making things up. And I still find myself wondering sometimes, what if I hadn’t bought that book that day. What are the chances I’d be here today, doing this, talking to you? It’s a trippy thought, and one I’m glad I don’t know the answer to, because I honestly can’t see myself being happy doing anything other than writing. No matter what day job I’ve had over the years, and there have been a few, none of them have ever fulfilled me as much as writing. Hail to the King.