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How Secret Window Made Me Want to Be a Writer

Secret Window Johnny Depp

There were a handful of things I wanted to be when I grew up, throughout various stages of my childhood. Like all kids, I used to dream of someday becoming a dinosaur, and when I realized that was just a little bit unattainable, I decided I’d settle for being a professional wrestler. Of course, that dream didn’t last all that long either, shattered once I grew up and realized I’m just not that person.

The one thing I never hoped to be was a writer. Truth be told, I never was all that into reading or writing, so to say I was bit by that particular bug at a young age would quite frankly be a massive lie. Sure it would make for a good story, one about lifelong dreams becoming reality, but writing just wasn’t something I considered a hobby – at least not during those early formative years.

So when was I bit by the writing bug? While I don’t quite hail it for single-handedly being the driving force behind me wanting to be a writer, as the reality is that many life experiences and relationships shaped the person I have become – that’s how life works, after all – I do credit the 2004 adaptation of Stephen King’s Secret Window with at least making me interested in the career I ended up choosing.

Allow me to explain.

Anyone who’s even remotely familiar with Stephen King is surely aware that many of his iconic stories center on writers, as he has used his real-life experiences as the inspiration for several classic horror tales. From The Shining‘s Jack Torrance to Misery‘s Paul Sheldon, writers have always been an integral part of King’s work, and the 1990 novella Secret Window, Secret Garden is no exception.

Novelist Mort Rainey was the central character in that particular story, played by Johnny Depp in the feature film adaptation. Living alone in a house out in the woods, Rainey spends his days writing, napping and goofing around with his beloved dog, and though that secluded lifestyle may not appeal to many, the depiction of the character on screen made an invisible light bulb appear over my head.

“Holy shit,” I can vividly remember thinking to myself, as I sat in the movie theater. “I think this is who I’m supposed to be!”

Of course, Johnny Depp pretty much makes anything look cool, to the point that other stages of my life had me wishing I had scissors for hands and desiring to become a reckless drug addict. But if I have a favorite Depp character it’s definitely Mort Rainey, who I quickly realized was my cinematic spirit animal. Forget the scissor hands. I knew, on that night in 2004, that I needed a tattered bath robe.

As far as I can recall, I had a mild interest in writing prior to heading into the theater to see Secret Window, though I don’t remember actually writing anything up to that point. To say that I was inspired upon leaving the theater would be an understatement, as I found myself loving absolutely everything about a job that I previously hadn’t ever seriously considered: the job of a writer.

It wasn’t all that long after seeing Secret Window that I started writing for myself and eventually blogging for the world to see, which all paved the way for a bonafide career that I’ve spent the past two years fully immersed in. Though it still feels weird to say, I guess I ended up becoming a writer somewhere along the way, and in many ways I have become that character I once looked up to.

Granted, I’m not nearly as successful/handsome as Mort Rainey, nor do I live in a house out in the woods (not yet, at least), but that lifestyle is one I’ve become very familiar with. From the dirty pajamas to the frequent naps, the seclusion from the outside world to the general madness that comes along with being locked in a room and writing all day, I can’t help but feel that I became who I wanted to become, 11 years ago.

We should always be careful what we wish for, as people often say, and if we’re being honest here, I’ve also adopted some of the not-so-great characteristics of that character. No, I’m not a sadistic killer with imaginary enemies, but the job has very much become my life, to the point that other things have fallen by the wayside – the most heartbreaking being, much like Rainey, my once-great marriage.

There’s a point in the film where Mort drives past his former home and sees his wife outside. “This is not my beautiful house,” he says. “This is not my beautiful wife. Anymore.” It’s a moment I wish I didn’t end up relating to, but as I sit here watching the movie back, I must admit that I kind of do. Writing, at some point, became my number one love, and that seems to be an unfortunate side effect of the job.

No, I never became a dinosaur or a professional wrestler. But I became Mort Rainey. Sometimes this revelation makes me want to do Snoopy dances. Other times, I wonder if many things would’ve turned out better had I not seen Secret Window, and had I not been bitten by the so-called writing bug. But this is who I’ve become, and in a way, mine is indeed a story of dreams coming true.

“Life’s barely long enough to get good at one thing. So be careful what you get good at.” – Rust Cohle, True Detective.

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If you don't get enough of me here on Halloween Love, you can also find me on Dread Central, iHorror and Shock Till You Drop. Contact me via john@halloweenlove.com.
  • Incredible piece. Perhaps the greatest thing I’ve ever read from you. Sorry to hear about your troubles. I hope things improve quickly, buddy.

  • John Squires

    Thank you for reading and for the kind words, Blair. Means a lot and it’s much appreciated.

  • I always enjoy when writers get personal and honest with their content. This is the type of piece that drew me to your work back in the Freddy in Space days.

  • BJ Colangelo

    Sending you love, brother. All of it that I’ve got.

  • Attack of the Couch

    Your blog was a major inspiration for my own and I’ve remained personally invested in your work ever since. As a writer, you’re more than just some guy who’s good at writing about movies and that’s why you have so many loyal readers. Your dream has come true and it’s touched and inspired people as a result. Sorry to hear about the negative side though man; I really hope it improves for you. Life, love, passion – all of it – it takes work sometimes. I hope you get the best out of writing and your personal life. Thank you for all the great pieces up until now.

  • John Squires

    I feel if you’re not willing to be honest about your feelings and open about your life, then what’s the point of even writing? Hesitated in posting some of the things I wrote here, but at the end of the day, it feels good to get feelings out there and share life experiences.

  • John Squires

    Thank you. Very much appreciated.

  • John Squires

    Thank YOU for reading. So nice to hear I’ve been an inspiration for you. That makes me really happy. So sincerely, thank you. For reading. For commenting. For supporting. Means the world to me.

  • Attack of the Couch

    You keep writing and rest assured I’ll keep reading buddy. You da man

  • Jeremy Lebens

    Fantastic piece of work John. I totally see the bathrobe resemblance haha, no but seriously you’ve definitely got a love and passion for writing and it bleeds through so brilliantly onto the page. I’ve always enjoyed your work and think that you have a very special voice that many (me included) love reading. I too hope things get better for you and come full circle. You’re a great writer and an even better person and I wish you all the best!