The Stephen King Fallacy


'People think that if they eat the same breakfast cereal Stephen King eats, they'll write like Stephen King writes.' - Seth GodinI love this quote, partly because I've fallen into this trap more times than I can remember, and partly because once you recognise this fallacy, why it doesn't work and what we need to do about it becomes obvious.The only way to write like Stephen King writes is to write.(There are separate questions: why would we want to write like Stephen King? How about working to better our own individual styles of writing? But that's another matter.)Trying to emulate someone's lifestyle isn't going to make you think like them, nor is it going to give you their skills. Only Stephen King thinks like Stephen King, and only you think like you. Just as you don't necessarily have the same talents or perspective as Stephen King, you have other talents and perspectives that he doesn't have.

The Equation Factor

The above reasoning falls into the same category as the following equations:1) 'When I have X, I will be Y', where Y is a more desirable state that we are in now.or,2) 'When I have X, I will do Y', where Y is a long dreamed-of goal or ambition.When I have [money/a partner/that car/new shoes/a snazzy apartment/fame/a baby/chickens/a cute puppy], I will be happy.When I have [more knowledge/read these books/taken this course/bought new sneakers/organised my music list], I will [start this new project/start exercising/write that novel].Let's deal with the second equation.We don't need new sneakers or a particular music mix to start exercising, we just need to start exercising.If we have no sneakers, that's a different matter. But the key is knowing the difference between a valid need and a justification not to take action.Next time you find yourself bringing out the equations, try some critical thinking. This might include asking:1) Do I really need X?2) Why do I really need X?3) Is there any way I can do Y without X?4) Do I have any feelings of obligation about doing Y? (do the words "should" or "ought to" come into it?)5) Do I have any feelings about the outcome of Y? (am I scared of failure/success/ridicule?)Differentiate between the things you need and the things you don't.Think about whether you really want to be doing Y, or whether it's more a question of feeling you should.Consider that waiting for X might be a way of avoiding the consequences of doing Y.Most times, we'll find that the only thing that's stopping you from doing what you want is actually doing it.What is the 'X' you are waiting for right now?