Confidence Is The Key: How Stephen King Teaches Us To Bet On Ourselves


11/29-12/5
The Waste Lands
Chapters 2.xv-3.xvii

TFW You’re The Interloper

Every week when I sit down to write this blog, I never feel like I’m going to be able to produce anything worthwhile. Even when I already know exactly what I want to write about, I freeze up, worried that I won’t be able to craft it the way I want to, the same way Eddie worries he will lose the shape of the key he continues carving. Even now I, fear that I’m making a fool of myself and that nobody has any interest in what I have to say. It’s classic Imposter Syndrome (or as Sylvia Pittston might call it, Interloper Syndrome), and I think most of us have experienced it in some form or another.

But also like Eddie, there comes a time when one has no choice but to buckle down and start what needs to be finished. Eventually I’ll manage to get a few words out, and then a few words become a few dozen, then a few hundred, and by the time Friday night rolls around it’s done (and much improved thanks to my wife, who edits each post). Whether people are interested in reading them or not, I’ve done the work, and I’ve done it well enough that I feel fine putting my name on it.

His fear of failure would make it even harder than it maybe had to be, but he would have to swallow the fear and try anyway.

The Waste Lands, p. 224

Over time, I have come to trust myself and rely on my instincts as a writer to get me through each page. My ability to ignore those feelings of self-doubt and do the work—is something I credit to reading (and re-reading) The Dark Tower, especially this week’s portion.

Set Your Watch And Warrant On Yourself

In these chapters, two of Roland’s protégés are put in a position where they only have one shot at success with no room for error. “This time I’ll have to get all of it”, Eddie thinks to himself back on p. 115, “I think that this time ninety percent won’t do.

Jake isn’t even sure exactly what he’s supposed to do; he only knows that he must do it perfectly or he’ll never find his way back to Roland. Guided by dreams and intuition, Jake follows his gut and improvises, just as Roland is fond of doing.

No Problem-o, he said. You found the key and the rose, didn’t you? You’ll find me the same way.

The Waste Lands, p. 215

It’s the same trial by fire that Susannah faced, when she blew Shardik’s thinking cap to smithereens. A single all-or-nothing opportunity to either win the day or lose everything. Unlike Susannah, however, the other two almost crack under the pressure. Eddie has a breakdown along the Great Road, coming close to shooting Roland. Meanwhile, on Earth in 1977, everyone thinks Jake has exam fever, and in a sense he does. But he’s not worried about any of the tests at Piper; he’s worried about the test that awaits him at Dutch Hill. They both need to learn how to stop worrying about failing and focus on succeeding.

Luckily, their Dinh is a master of this mindset. Is there anything the gunslinger doesn’t believe himself capable of? Once he decides to do something, he never seems to question or second-guess himself. That isn’t to say that he can’t fail, or that he thinks he can’t fail. He knows better than anyone how easily things can go wrong, but he never psyches himself out with this knowledge. He learned a long time ago the lesson that Eddie and Jake are learning now: always bet on yourself.

So when I start to feel overwhelmed by something, like Eddie finishing his key, or I feel like I don’t know what I’m doing, like Jake unwittingly following the Beam, I try to remember the gunslinger’s utter refusal to consider anything but victory. I imagine him telling me to remember the face of my father, to stand and be true. That voice my head (which, incidentally, sounds a lot like Frank Muller) has spurred me into action in moments when I was frozen with self-doubt, and more than once it has helped me put down the first word on a blank page.

Next Week’s Reading
The Waste Lands:
Chapters 3.xvii-4.viii

Published by Joe Rechtman

Screenwriter/watcher. Constant Reader & Dark Tower Junkie.

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