“On Writing” vs “Where Good Ideas Come From”

By Trissean McDonald

Stephen King’s curriculum vitae, “On Writing,” illustrates several network comparisons from Steven Johnson’s “Where Good Ideas Come From,” because King utilizes the key components of the adjacent possible and error, as well as other networks, to assist in formulating innovative ways towards becoming a successful writer.

 If it weren’t for these prominent components, the successful journey in which King would later achieve in his career path, would not have ever been made possible.

 So, what are these networks or components? These networks or components, according to Johnson’s “Where Good Ideas Come From,” are tools that could be utilized for the benefit and progression of new innovations. 

Although unintentional in his earlier years of becoming a writer, Stephen King has stumbled across numerous occasions in which King had to utilize certain networks or key components in “Where Good Ideas Come From,” in order to become a world famous writer. 
For instance, the adjacent possible, and how finding the “door of other opportunities” allowed King to stumble across countless struggles in order to welcome in a number of slow hunches towards his successful career.

Now, I bet you’re wondering, “what in the world is this author saying?” Well, let’s first start with Johnson’s definition of the adjacent possible. “Think of it as house that magically expands with each door you open. You begin in a room with four doors, each leading to a new room that you haven’t visited yet. Those four rooms are the adjacent possible,” according to “Where Good Ideas Come From.

” In Stephen King’s “On Writing,” his hobby as a kid, spent lots of time copying comics word-for-word, occasionally changing words that seemed appropriate to him; therefore eagerly one day, he shows his mother his verbatim creations. 

Although being ridiculed by his mother to create his own work, this allowed King to enter into a state of error in order for him to experience his first adjacent possible as a writer. “I remember an immense feeling of possibility at the idea, as if I had been ushered into a vast building filled with closed doors and had been given leave to open any I liked. There were more doors than one person could ever open in a life- time, I thought (and still think),” a statement from King’s “On Writing.”

 POW! That minuscule error of King’s plagiarism “opened up” a doorway to an adjacent possible; therefore, birthing out a new innovation with which King gained the approval of his mother. King’s error also gave way to a slow hunch.

“Wait, wait a minute. What’s a ‘slow hunch’?” Here’s the thing: slow hunches requires a lot of time to develop, they’re easily lost to most daily obligations. Yet, the slow hunches are strengthened by the long incubation period with which they develop in, according to Johnson.

 One of Stephen King’s greatest novels, “Carrie,” underwent a series of slow hunches, causing him to actually give up on a hunch that’ll change his life forever; however it was his wife, Tabby, who found King’s error (in the garbage) and enlighten him to revisit his slow hunch. 

Welcoming the hunch, is putting it into the cultivation process. Adopting the hunch, is allowing the hunch to take root. As you revisit the hunch, you’re giving water to the hunch, causing the hunch to grow. Once the hunch is matured, it bears fruit. The fruit are those “eureka” moments; hence, King’s famous “Carrie.” 

According to King, he “wasn’t having much success with my own writing…The bigger deal was that, for the first time in my life, writing was hard.” Nevertheless, it was the components of using the adjacent possible, error, and also a liquid network that inspired King to produce a hefty number of reading material for the world’s gravitation.

To revisit Johnson’s “Where Good Ideas Come From,” a liquid network is “when you share a common civic culture with thousands of other people, good ideas have a tendency to flow from mind to mind, even when their creators try to keep them secret.” 

In “On Writing,” Stephen King, who by error, stumbled across a liquid network in Brunswick High School by meeting Harry. Both King and Harry worked at the high school during one summertime. There’s a specific day that King becomes fascinated by what he sees inside a girl’s restroom. 

As King is cleaning the restroom, he notices several oddities. There weren’t any urinals inside the restroom, and two metal boxes that weren’t for paper towels. Upon King’s inquiry, “Pussy Plugs,” Harry explains. “For those certain days of the month.” 

King also becomes inquisitive about the purpose for a U-ring shower. “I guess young girls are a bit more shy about being undressed,” Harry continues. This slow hunch became one of the beginning stages of King entering into a liquid network. 

King revisited the hunch one day while working at the laundry. He begins to formulate a story about a girl showering in a girl’s locker room without any U-rings. The girl that’s showering starts her period; however, she’s ignorant of what it is. Being grossed out, or perhaps even amused, other girls around her started pelting tampons and pads at her. 

“Plug it up, plug it up,” the girls taunted. Meanwhile, the girl that’s having her period is petrified. She thinks that she’s bleeding to death, and how could these girls be taunting her, she’s dying. 

King visits another slow hunch after reading an article from Life magazine. The article was about alleged poltergeist activities possibly being a telekinetic phenomenon, especially in adolescent girls. 

BAM! King’s unintended article find in the magazine, brings about a slow hunch, the slow hunch brought about an adjacent possible, and the adjacent possible allowed King to adopt to a liquid network. He used two unrelated topics, connected the two hunches and “eureka,” he had the premise for “Carrie.”

The liquid network “creates a more promising environment for the system to explore the adjacent possible,” Johnson. The liquid network could only work when it’s in the environment suitable for it to work. Additionally, the adjacent possible is not reachable without an error or serendipity. 

Lastly, all errors brings about a slow hunch. Its then up to any individual to search for their adjacent possible and to find a liquid network to strengthen the flow of their innovation.

 In King’s case it was his wife Tabby, his mother, and constantly embracing slow hunches of creativity. Without these key components, King would not possibly been able to reach his adjacent possible, his liquid network, or even errors leading to slow hunches that birth out new innovations.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s