Recently I finished two books in quick succession. The first, Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft; the second, Steve Jobs, the biography written by Walter Isaacson. On the surface, the books may seem unrelated. I mean, how can you compare a book on fiction writing against a biography of one of the most polarizing business icons in the last 100 years? My answer – Easily!! The truth is, the books are very much related . . . in soul and essence, in philosophy, and in power.
First, let’s just take the principle characters. Stephen King is simply one of the most prolific writers ever. His tales of horror, supernatural fiction, suspense, science fiction, and fantasy have sold over 350 million copies worldwide and have been adapted into numerous films. Steve Jobs only changed the world as we know it by revolutionizing six industries: personal computers, animated movies, music, phones, tablet computing, and digital publishing. He is the driving force behind iconic products like the Mac. iPod, iPhone, and iPad.
In reading King’s book and Jobs’ biography, I found a common thread woven throughout the pages, an insight into their drive and motivation. I also saw how both men intuitively connected with everyday people—both in the books they wanted to read and in the electronic gadgets they craved. What follows is a few quotes from both men that I found strikingly similar.
King: “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. It’s about getting up, getting well, and getting over. Getting happy . . .”
Jobs: “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.”
King: “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut.”
Jobs: “I’m convinced that about half of what separates the successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance.... Unless you have a lot of passion about this, you’re not going to survive. You’re going to give it up.”
About Reaching People.
King: “All the arts depend upon telepathy to some degree, but I believe that writing is the purest distillation. An important element of writing is transference. Your job isn't to write words on the page, but rather to transfer the ideas inside your head into the heads of your readers.”
Jobs: “. . .it’s not about convincing people that they want something they don’t. We figure out what we want . . . to think through whether a lot of other people are going to want it, too.”
King: “You cannot hope to sweep someone else away by the force of your writing until it has been done to you.”
Jobs: “Our belief was that if we kept putting great products in front of customers, they would continue to open their wallets.”
About Taking Risks.
King: “There is no gain without risk.” and “Good writing is often about letting go of fear.”
Jobs: “Be curious, experiment, take risks.” and “Stay hungry. Stay foolish.”
Jobs had a remarkable ability to develop products that consumers savored. Tim Cook once said about Jobs that he “had this incredible and uncanny ability to see around the corner” and a “relentless, driving force for perfection.” Stephen King has a similar driving force for his craft. His ability to connect with his readers is obvious. He talks about writing as a form of telepathy, a way of transferring ideas and imagery and characters that stirs the reader’s imagination. He has an undeniable talent for putting his readers into the world he creates.
My takeaway from all this? The tenacity and passion of both men truly inspires me. However, that alone isn’t enough. Let’s face it, the world is full of smart, hardworking, and determined entrepreneurs who’ve failed. The same is true for writers. As Mr. King famously stated, “I can't lie and say there are no bad writers. Sorry, but there are lots of bad writers.” And unfortunately, with modern technology bad writers keep pushing out bad stories. It is called the slush pile for a reason! MY job as a writer is to pursue my craft with my whole heart, and in so doing create the absolutely best story I can, one that connects with my readers on a heart level. Moe than money, I long for my stories to touch people and sweep them away just as I’ve been swept away by the power of words on a page.
Now it’s time for me to walk the talk. According to Mr. King—“The scariest moment is always just before you start.” I can already feel my heart racing.