Just Do It – Lessons from Author Stephen King

Last Monday I was watching Stephen King’s biography. I was fascinated at his remarkable life story. For those who don’t know him, King is one of the most famous and prolific fiction authors of all time. King has written and published 49 novels, and his books have collectively sold more than 350 million copies. If you don’t know why I bringing King up in a blog for filmmakers, please bear with, there are a few morals:

Work Without a Pay

King’s story is one of struggle and perseverance. Writing a novel is not much different than writing a script or making a film. To begin with, they are both creative endeavors. You start with a vague idea and know not where it will lead you. You may give up half way through it. Or you might run the distance and finish with a compelling product, or a crappy one. As a beginner, you work and you don’t know if you will profit from it. You invest your time without assurance of a paycheck. Many people can’t handle this.

Sometimes to break into show business, you have to work without earning much, if anything. You do this when someone offers you a good position or internship that you wouldn’t otherwise get it. You have to show your work and diligence first to be granted admission at the Hollywood pantheon.

“Just Do it”

In King’s biography, one of his former professors said, “Many students here aspire to be writers. But the most fascinating thing about King is that he’d just do it” [paraphrase]. The professor was referring to the fact that king had a column at the campus paper. Little did the professor know, King was also constantly pounding words at home as well. This is king following his dream.

Every so often, I meet students who claim they want to be filmmakers, yet there’s nothing about their lifestyle and habits that suggests that. Liking movies is a requirement to become a filmmaker, but it is hardly the education you need. It is chiefly a hobby. If you are working two jobs, studying full time, and taking care of the kids during breaks, then, in that case, you are excused. However, if you spent most of your time watching reruns of Everybody Loves Raymond or playing solitaire, odds are filmmaking won’t come knocking. Be mindful of how you spent your time.

I agree that making movies is impossible by oneself, so use this as excuse for not making movies and that alone. But there’s no excuse for not learning filmmaking or honing your craft. Experiment with your camera, write screenplays… Something. Anything. But just do it.

Don’t Victimize Yourself

Before his big break, King eventually got married and became a father. He was then surviving with a meager paycheck as an English teacher and working a second job. He situation wasn’t good. In several occasions, King or his wife had to call the telephone company to have their telephone disconnected. Despite all the hardship, King persevered. He was frustrated at his life. But such frustration could not preclude King from writing; and he knew it.

Drinking with friends might alleviate pain, but does not open doors. Life is not easy. Like my good friend Alfredo from Cinema Paradiso (1988) would say:

Life is not like the movies, Toto. Life is much harder.

Indeed it is. I understand that all of us have different problems. Some have more problems than others. But don’t let them stand in the way of your dreams.

There you have it. Some little lessons from the King of suspense. He inspires us, don’t you agree?

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