What I Learned from Stephen King’s Trash

WHETHER YOU LIKE THE KIND OF FICTION Stephen King writes or not, his story of professional perseverance is legendary. It’s an all-American success story: starving teacher and his family finally able to buy a car, get a phone, and move out of their 40-foot trailer. His years of writing in a laundry closet at night on his wife’s old Olivetti typewriter finally paid off.

Stephen Kinf and Lessons on Throing out the Trash


When King started, he typed three single-spaced pages, crumpled them up in anger, and dumped them in the trashcan. He was disappointed in himself. His critics were right—he couldn’t write from a woman’s perspective. The whole story disgusted him, too …  The next day, Tabby went to empty the trash in the laundry room and found three crinkled balls of paper. She reached in, brushed off a coat of cigarette ashes, and unwrinkled the pages. When King came home from work, she still had them. “You’ve got something here,” she said. “I really think you do.” Mental Floss


The Parable of the Trash

The film version of Carrie (the original one) came out in 1976, one year after my wife and I married. At that time, I knew nothing of the backstory to the novel. My guess is, we went primarily because out little cottage had no AC and every Tuesday night was dollar night at our local fleabag theater. Or, who knows, John Trovolta starred in it and my wife thought he had better hair than me.

Beyond the aforementioned, our lives are quite divergent. My wife and I are southerners to the core, and Maine is in Canada, isn’t it? King hit it big while his children were young while our grandchildren are still holding out for something more than a $5 McDonalds Gift card for their inhertiance. But, the famous author and I do hold a few things in common: our minds can work in weird ways, both of us owned a beater Ford Pinto, we both read a lot, and we both have awakened with a story idea late in the night after eating cheap takeout food.

What Stephen King and I have most in common is trash. Like him, I have someone who believes in me enough to insist I take that story out of the trash. In King’s excellent work, On Writing, he offers the only value he sees in critique groups. It isn’t to learn more tricks of the trade. It’s to get with people who will encourage you to keep on writing. I am blessed to be married to my best friend who still encourages me to get my crumpled up pages out of the trash and keep plugging away.

After almost 40 years, I have to admit, she still has to remind me to take out the rest of the trash.

One I’m Glad I Didn’t Throw Away

One piece of advice I learned from a successful writer is to never throw away what I write. “You never know,” she said, “you may wish you could find that discarded idea or line of dialogue one day.” How right she is. After I wrote Echoes of the Before Time, I began to think about how the story might continue. And so, I began rummaging through the trash – as in files saved on my computer long ago. There it was, a fragment of a story idea – one I kept after I read it to my wife and she said, “That’s really good.”

The Watcher calls on us to remember. To remember those this crumbling world tolerated, then ignored, and finally forgot ever existed. To breathe deeply and recall the fragrance of those who once believed. He implores us to hear the whisperings of the other-time. Like the night wind rushing through the trees it calls to any not yet deafened by the Federation’s roar to seek the old words.

The manuscript that passage comes from a novel that may never be finished. It’s been on the back burner for years now. However, it makes for a perfect intro for the next installment of Echoes of the Before Time. Man I’m glad I have a wife who encourages me to not throw out all the trash! So what is there that you wish you had rescued from the trash? 

t.e. (Tim) George has seen and lived many stories in his life. As a freelance commercial writer, he helps clients tell the story of what they do. As a ghost writer, he helps people tell the story that matter most to them. But it is as a novelist that he writes stories for who matter most – you, the reader. Tim’s latest novella, Only Time, is available now at Amazon.com.
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