He sat at his desk, nerves afire. He was itching to get back into his work. It’d been so long. He wasn’t even sure if he could still do it. Would the words come to him as easily as they had in the past? Would they be fleeting, or would they paint themselves on the paper effortlessly, blooming like colors on a canvas? He wasn’t sure.
It’d been years. Nearly a decade, he realized. The loss of his writing had been a slow process. He used to spend hours at a time writing, getting lost in the feeling, becoming absorbed in the words he wrote and the worlds he built. It had been his life, and he had loved it. Then the writing had slowed down, the blocks had become more frequent, and one day he had looked back and realized he hadn’t written in years. Where had his passion gone? What had changed?
He thought about it. He’d been cocky back then, loving the praise from his fans, loving the relentless success—he loved the interviews, loved the signings, loved having his books hit the best sellers’ lists. It’d gone to his head, but he hadn’t wanted to believe it back then. He’d started writing from his heart, he thought. His first book didn’t sell well, but he was proud of it. His second book took off in a way he had never imagined, and his whole world had changed. But it had changed him, too.
He sighed. Yeah, it had changed him, indeed. He had started writing to expand his fame, to reign in more success, to keep the fire going at any cost—and he did. He had kept going and going, flying on that high, never stopping until the fire grew so big that it destroyed him. He had the money, the fame, and the success, but in the process, he had lost who he was. He had lost his passion.
He tapped the pencil against the wooden surface of his desk. It was going to be different, this time. He could feel it. He wasn’t going to write with money, fame, and success in mind. He was going to write for himself, and he was going to be free.
He took a deep breath and pressed the pencil against the paper. He watched as the first letters became his first word, and the first words became his first sentence, and the first sentences became his first paragraph. He watched as the pencil glided downwards, starting a new paragraph. The pencil was his brush, the lead his paint, the paper his canvas, and the words his art.
The once-bleak canvas grew in color, paragraphs forming into pages, lead smudging his hands. His new world called to him, and he listened to it, that fire starting in him once more. In the past, that fire had become his enemy, but now he embraced its call, letting those flames course through his body like a wildfire.
He wrote the story of a king. The king was a peaceful ruler who was loved by his subjects. Their admiration filled him with a fire of great pride and joy. He would travel to other kingdoms and rural countries, always getting new subjects and bringing them back with him, their love for him stroking his fire. But he soon became obsessed. He traveled further and further each trip, leaving his kingdom longer each time, always searching for more subjects to give him love.
One day, after being away for many years, he came back to his kingdom, only to discover his subjects had forgotten about him, their love having disappeared while he was gone. In a fit of rage, he became consumed by the fire of hate and cursed the kingdom.
The canvas splashed with reds, oranges, and yellows. His hand ached from the tight grip on the pencil. He was at a critical point in the story, and he could feel it. He could feel the king’s anger matching with his own. He could feel the pain of being forgotten.
But where did the story go from here? He wasn’t sure. What would happen to the king? To the kingdom? Would the fire of hate spread, infecting the hearts of all the subjects, its power unstoppable? Or would there be some sort of solution, some hero popping up to save the day, to defeat the king and restore peace in the kingdom?
He gnawed on the pencil. That wasn’t right. This was the story of the king, not the story of some hero yet to be created. The king still had good in him, and he just needed to find a way to let it out. He needed to find a way to let the king restore peace on his own.
He went back to his work, the grip on his pencil looser now. This was the hardest part yet, but he would get through it. He felt himself at a distance with the outside world. It was like he was in another body, and time had ceased to exist. It felt freeing. There was no pressure to please his audience, there was no pressure to please his publisher, and there was no pressure to please the world. Nothing else existed right now; it was just him and his story. It was just him and the king. And he had to push on.
The king spent years in a fit of rage, revisiting the old kingdoms and countries he’d traveled to in the past and cursing them all. His fire of hate grew and grew, until it was too powerful to handle, and he lost himself. He forgot who he was. He cursed town after town, but why? Why was he angry?
There was so much more to be cursed, but he was tired. After ten long years, he found a deep, dark cave, and lay down to rest. When he awoke, he remembered his past, and he remembered who he was. So much destruction he had caused. He was ashamed.
He went back to every kingdom, country, and town he had visited, and lifted each curse, one by one. The fire of hate dwindled with every curse he lifted, but he gained no love or admiration from the people. As he traveled through the kingdoms, lifting curses, his fire continued to shrink, and he grew weaker and weaker.
After many long years, when he was frail and old, and his bones ached, he returned to his own kingdom at last. Not a soul recognized him, for his hair had turned white, his back was hunched, and wrinkles now crested his ancient face.
Entering the kingdom, he was overwhelmed by the power of his curse. It would take the last of his power to lift it. Looking around, he saw his people struggling, the power of the curse having drained their energy long ago. They were weak and lifeless. They had all loved him once, but now they had no energy to spare for love.
He closed his eyes and used the last of his power to lift the curse. It happened quickly, and the kingdom was freed as he fell to the ground. He watched his subjects cheer and laugh and dance around him. They were celebrating, and love was returning to their hearts, but none of their love was for him. Even though he had lifted the curse, he realized, he was no longer their king.
It was a sad story. The pencil rolled out of his hand, stopping only when it bumped into the empty cup on his right. He reread the last paragraph several times over. That was the end, he thought. He’d been writing since morning, and now, as he looked around, he became aware of the dark room, and realized how much time had passed. He’d taken a few breaks, eaten a few snacks, drank too much coffee, and now the day was over. The story was done.
He went back to the beginning, reviewing his work, catching new things he wanted to fix. But there would always be things to fix, wouldn’t there? Just like a painting, there would always be something add, something to touch-up, something to change. He could replace a word, put a sentence in a different place, add a scene or take one away—the possibilities were endless.
In the past, he would always get lost in those little details, rearranging his stories until it drove him crazy. He wouldn’t do that this time. His art was his to appreciate, imperfect or not. This story was his story, and this king was his king, and that was enough.
He went to the kitchen and refilled his coffee. Today had been a success, he realized. He had written for himself. He had let his king come to life, and he hadn’t worried whether the story would sell, or what people would think of him being back. A decade. It’d been a decade. Far too long. He wasn’t going to let other people determine his success anymore. He would succeed by writing from his heart, and he had done that today. His passion was back. He wasn’t going to let it go this time.