Stephen King and I have a problem. He keeps stealing my ideas.
This has been happening since I was a teenager. Every time I came up with a great story idea, Mr. King has written it ten years earlier. I am sure he is not aware of it but it is very disheartening for a young writer.
King describes in his book On Writing that stories are fossils that must be unearthed with care. I was thinking about this when I read Malcolm Gladwell’s article In the Air from The New Yorker. Gladwell writes how Nathan Myhrvold, co-founder of Intellectual Ventures and dinosaur enthusiast discovered during an archaelogical dig that:
He realized that ideas, like fossils, are abundant and they only must be looked for.
But this causes an issue. From the same article: “This phenomenon of simultaneous discovery—what science historians call “multiples”—turns out to be extremely common… the sheer number of multiples could mean only one thing: scientific discoveries must, in some sense, be inevitable. “
I had unearthed my problem with Mr. King.
The fact is story ideas are abundant and people will discover them at similar time but the distance between an idea and a complete story is measured by months and years of hard work. Mr. King and I both had the same idea but he saw his to completion.
There is the experiment of giving a detailed story idea out to a group of writers. Each person takes it away, writes something, and returns. Often, the result is that each of the stories are different: different tones, different genres, different characters, different plots, different voices. The reason is that what you bring will be unique.
This is the reason why I put importance on process over product and focus on the work. I hope a prolific writer such as Stephen King would agree.