By Nick Sapienza
I was always a shy kid. Whether it was talking to people or sending a text message, my social anxiety made me fear even the shortest interactions. During my grade school years, I felt immense pressure to be social and make friends, which left me feeling increasingly paranoid. In times of anxiety, I would submerge myself within a book. If people saw me reading, they would disengage and leave me to read. It was when I had books that I could cope with my social anxiety. Stephen King once said, “We make up horrors to help cope with real ones,” and I believe strongly in this idea because that’s what influenced me to begin writing. Weirdly enough, reading Stephen King’s fiction helped me cope with my own anxiety.
I was twelve years old and traveling with my family in Italy when I first read Misery. I didn’t have a smart phone and the hotel only had five TV channels, so I would read when I wasn’t exploring Rome. I can still vividly remember scenes such as when Paul’s typewriter begins talking to him, as well as Annie’s declaration to Paul that she will hold him hostage until he writes a sequel to his latest series. These scenes gave me chills. They were so well-written that they came to life in my imagination and have lived there ever since.
Reading King’s work inspired me to write. As a nerdy nervous kid, I attended writing workshops in Brooklyn where I grew up. I never left the house without my journal, a pen, and a copy of Carrie. If I needed inspiration, I would open up to a random page and read a paragraph. I could relate to Carrie’s story because she was the target of vicious bullying and was so alone. Loneliness is something that writing can conquer. Creating my characters and building a new world occupied my mind and imagination. Writing feels like a conversation between myself and the page. Stephen King believes you must write and read every day to perfect your craft. For the first time in my life, I was inspired to be disciplined. That was big!
Crippled by anxiety as a child, I chose to think of Stephen King as my own personal mentor. The first time I read his memoir, On Writing, I learned that even he struggles with his self-confidence: He threw his first story in the trash bin, and it was his wife who convinced to publish it. Even in On Writing he stated, “Writing is a lonely job. Having someone who believes in you makes a lot of difference. They don’t have to makes speeches. Just believing is usually enough.” His words resonated with me and ultimately encouraged me to believe in myself.
Living all these different lives through my writing miraculously gave me the confidence to be outgoing. I found a way to channel my fears into something productive. All of my anxieties and shyness became useful for my writing as I was able to recreate my daily challenges on the page. There is no better way to open your mind to all the possibilities that life has to offer.