Recently Richard got me Stephen King’s Doctor Sleep as a present. It’s the sequel to The Shining, which I had never read. I’d seen the Stanley Kubrick/Jack Nicholson movie, but had heard the book is different (and it definitely is) so I decided to read the book first.
The Shining was an enjoyable, page-turning airplane read that I finished on the return leg of our recent trip to Phoenix, and I was looking forward to starting the sequel that seemingly just came out. As we were walking through the airport on our way to our car, however, we passed the bookstore and I noticed that Stephen King had another new book out, called Revival. My God, I thought: how many books has Stephen King written?
The answer is . . . a lot. According to King’s website, if you just count novels, there are more than 50. 50! Indeed, in between Doctor Sleep and Revival there was at least one other book, Mr. Mercedes — and perhaps two, because I can’t tell whether Doctor Sleep was published before or after Joyland. And that is just novels; there are countless essays, short stories, and other pieces in a listing of written works that seems impossibly long.
By anyone’s definition, Stephen King has been astonishingly prolific. Those of us who aren’t creative can only marvel at where he could come up with so many ideas for books — but what really impresses me is King’s obvious dedication to his work and his craft. You can only publish that many books, short stories, and writings if you are willing to sit down at your writing desk, day after day, and work. And Stephen King is still doing it, at age 67.
Critics will probably never look upon Stephen King with the same affection they have for, say, Jonathan Franzen or David Foster Wallace. I don’t pretend to know precisely what separates fiction from “fine literature,” but I do know this: Stephen King has stayed atop the bestseller lists for decades now, producing book after book that people want to read, and he has done it by working hard, grinding away at new stories when he presumably could kick back, live off his royalties and speaking fees, and become a man of leisure.
If you want a living testament to the merits of a strong work ethic, consider Stephen King. We should all be able to find some inspiration in his example.