Following Diogenes

The other day I was getting dressed, and I experienced something unfamiliar, something I couldn’t remember ever experiencing before.

For this to make sense, I need to explain something first. I’m a sensation seeker.

Some people with this personality trait call themselves “thrill seekers,” but that’s not really appropriate in my case. I don’t feel the need to jump off bridges and go snorkeling with sharks. I’m not an adrenaline junkie — I simply like to experience new things.

And if you have my peculiar type of curiosity, there are new things all over the place. This is part of the reason I like meeting people and going places. It’s why I like reading books, which is like meeting people and going places except you don’t have to take a shower and find your pants first.

Hmmm…. I still feel like I might be giving the wrong impression. I’m not talking about going anywhere exotic. A few years ago I really enjoyed visiting a small town called Amherst – population: not much. They had a great river, and the locks on the public mailboxes were really cool. New York was interesting too, but despite all the museums and landmarks I saw, the thing that I liked the most were the pigeons and the sidewalks. The sidewalks in Soho are really great.

It would probably be fair to say that I’m a thrill seeker with simple tastes. If you’ve ever been driving around central Wisconsin and seen someone running his hands over the bark of a tree, or staring intently into the water that’s running along the gutter and into a storm drain, it was quite possibly me.

The point of all this is that I am tuned to the sensation of a new experience.

So a few days ago, I was getting dressed. I was halfway thought putting on my socks when I realized that I was experiencing something new…. But for the life of me I couldn’t put my finger on what it was.

It took me the better part of a minute to figure it out: I was sitting on my bed while I put on my socks.

The socks weren’t the new thing. The new thing was sitting on the bed while putting them on. Normally I put my socks on standing up. Part of the reason I do this is because I have ninja-like balance that I use at every opportunity, lest I dull my keen fighting edge. But the main reason I’ve always done it this way is that for the last 15 years I haven’t owned a bed.

Where do I sleep? Well, with the exception of a few years of futon while in grad school, I’ve usually just slept on a mattress on the floor.

I use sheets, mind you. I’m not an animal. I just never bothered getting all those other parts that go together with the mattress to make it a bed.

While I was sitting on my bed, thinking, “Hmm. This is different,” I realized y’all probably have a terribly inaccurate idea of what my life is like. You’ve come in at the end of the story, so to speak.

It would be reasonable for you to assume that my life has always been this luxurious, full of beds, posh coffee drinks, and Chinese food delivered directly to my house. But the truth is, for most of my life I have practiced simplicity of living. As a philosophy, it is very appealing to me. And, as a bonus, when you aren’t worried about making a lot of money, it frees up a lot of your time for writing.

Simplicity has come naturally to me over the years. It’s easy when you don’t have much money. I live cheaply, move often, and don’t focus on frippery. Please don’t compare me to Thoreau. While he made some good points, Thoreau was kind of a poser.

No. Ever since I studied the Greek philosophers, I’ve done my best to follow in footsteps of Diogenes. The man who threw away his bowl after seeing a boy drinking out of his cupped hands. The man Plato called, “Socrates gone mad.” Brilliant, bitter, barefoot Diogenes.

This means for most of my adult life I’ve only owned one pair of shoes, one coat, and one pair of pants. I’ve eaten a lot of ramen. (Chicken Maruchen ramen, given a choice.) Before selling the book, I never paid more than $250 a month for rent, or more than ten dollars for a piece of furniture.

No, wait, that isn’t true. I paid 80 bucks for a desk back in 1998. It was one of those plywood assemble-it-yourself kits. Two years later I moved, and when I realized it couldn’t be taken apart, I just ripped the top piece off and laid it across two filing cabinets. That’s what I still use for a desk. That’s what I’m typing on right now.

Do I have a point? No. Probably not. Except to say that life is strange. I have lived most of my adult life happily poor. (Though I have never been truly desperate or destitute by any means.) Now I have a bed. A real bed with a box spring and a frame and everything. I recently bought a dishwasher. I have a house — or at least a mortgage in the shape of a house.

I’ve been up all night, writing and thinking. And before I lay down in my new bed in my new house and catch a refreshing day’s sleep, I’m going to go out and buy a couple copies of the Sunday edition of the New York Times. This is another thing I’ve never done before. I wonder how heavy three copies will be? How much does the Times cost?

I’m buying a Sunday paper because there is a full page ad for The Name of the Wind in there today. A full-page color ad. And though I don’t know the specific numbers, I expect this ad cost the publisher more money than I made in a year of teaching at the university. It is terribly flattering. It is a glamorous gesture of faith and support. It shows that they really believe in the book.

Today I have a full-color ad in the New York Times, and my life is strange. This is not a bad thing. After I post this up on my blog, I will take a shower, put on my only pair of pants and walk downtown to buy a Sunday paper for the first time. Spring is finally here in Wisconsin, and though the trees are still dark and leafless, the ground has thawed. It is almost fifty degrees out. More luxury. More than I deserve. I will celebrate by leaving my only pair of shoes at home and make my way barefoot, pretending for a while that I am still following Diogenes.

Take care everyone,

pat

*** Edit – 9:45 AM ***

First off, it turns out it isn’t a color ad. That makes me feel better, actually.

Secondly, they reallydon’t want to let you into the grocery store if you don’t have any shoes on. Even if it’s just so you can buy a paper. Even if it’s just for a minute so you can buy a paper that has an ad for your book in it.

If it wasn’t for the authority of my majestic beard, I don’t think they would have let me through….

Thirdly:

(Click to Embiggen)

Whoot!

pat

This entry was posted in cool things, day in the life, Diogenes, the man behind the curtainBy Pat36 Responses

34 Comments

  1. Brian Igelchen
    Posted April 20, 2008 at 1:47 PM | Permalink

    What do you do if you’re away from home, and your pair of pants got wet? :PI live somewhat like you do, but I have a couple of changes in case of a watery day. ^_^

  2. Llyralei
    Posted April 20, 2008 at 1:59 PM | Permalink

    I understand about the sensation seeker thing. I’ve got a bit of that in me as well. :] And as for living your life super simple… I’ll be moving out this year to go to college, and you’ve inspired me.These kinds of blogs reinforce my belief that you’re my favourite author ever. :]

  3. Anonymous
    Posted April 20, 2008 at 2:29 PM | Permalink

    That’s not just that on the NYT. According to the website, TNOTW is now 11th in the paperback mass-market fiction list, “with sales barely distinguishable from the book above”. Congratulations!http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/27/books/bestseller/0427bestpapermassfiction.html

  4. Rae
    Posted April 20, 2008 at 2:48 PM | Permalink

    I find myself amused.More than that, <>entertained<>–which is an incredibly difficult thing for me to be. Your lifestyle is one that I could probably never do. Despite my country upbringing, I do like things that are shiney–but mostly in the I-felt-bad-for-it-so-I-took-it-home sort of way. This has led to a strange, overwhelming mess of items that I’m not entirely sure have a real use, but they’ve all got personality. Particularly the four foot tall log, Bob, and the four inch pine tree, Ramses. Though I have had the same pair of hiking boots–that is, my daily pair of shoes–for a good while now. They still even sort of function. I just haven’t the heart to get new ones.

  5. madisondork
    Posted April 20, 2008 at 2:49 PM | Permalink

    Cool post Pat, Your comment on reading books (“pants…shower”) is Reader’s Digest worthy!(Yes I posted it to MadisonDorks:)Paul, Oddcon guy

  6. jeffk
    Posted April 20, 2008 at 2:52 PM | Permalink

    I think I know what you mean about sensation seeking. A few years back I started sleeping on my couch, just because I liked the feeling of waking up in an unusual place. And I only wear a watch once I’ve gotten used to the feeling of <>not<> wearing one. I’m so glad you’re still getting that kind of support from DAW/Penguin. I’ll grab a Times on my way back from Comic Con today!

  7. Mainjari
    Posted April 20, 2008 at 3:14 PM | Permalink

    “Asked about his worst nightmare, Diogenes said, ‘Waking to find myself living in a palace and everyone else in barrels’.”Ever since I heard about Diogenes, he’s been my favorite philosopher. I think of him as the bad ass of the philosophers, and not bad ass as in “THIS IS SPARTA!!!”, I mean bad ass as in more of a kind of “I’m going live in this barrel and carry around a superfluous lantern in the daylight for the sake of showing how little I think of your opinion,” sort of bad ass. My kind of guy.

  8. Pat
    Posted April 20, 2008 at 3:21 PM | Permalink

    Yeah. Diogenes certainly didn’t take shit from anyone, that’s for sure.

  9. Nick
    Posted April 20, 2008 at 3:33 PM | Permalink

    Thanks for the pic, now I don’t feel as if I have to go buy the NYT, but I do feel as if I should go buy a copy of the paperback… If I can scrounge up some cash from somewhere around here…

  10. Mary J.
    Posted April 20, 2008 at 4:38 PM | Permalink

    Congrats on moving up from the extended list! I was in a Borders last night and I could only find one paperback copy of the NOTW to face out. There were many the week before- I thought it might be a good sign.Also, thanks for the Sunday morning giggle. Just one pair of pants? I would love to follow you the the laundry mat sometime…

  11. Josie
    Posted April 20, 2008 at 4:56 PM | Permalink

    I think these are my favorite kinds of posts from you, Pat. Any author can post up announcements and news, but you make an effort to show us bits of your every day life. This one made my day!I also envy your ability to walk around town in bare feet. I am way too much of a germophobe to be able to do this. I think I’ve had nightmares about having to walk across a parking lot with no shoes.

  12. billyverona@hotmail.com
    Posted April 20, 2008 at 8:11 PM | Permalink

    Hi Pat,great post, as usual, I aspire to that but, unfortunately, tend to like acquiring things too much. Anyway, I wanted to tell you, if you didn’t know already, that GRR Martin is reading your book and mentioned it in a Barnes and Noble chat:“teholbeddict wrote:This may be an odd question to post here, sir, but I’ve always been fascinated by the interaction between authors and their feelings of about each others’ work. That being said, aside from you, my favorite author at the moment is Steven Erikson. Have you read any of the books in his Malazan series, and if so, what do you think of them? I met Erikson last year in Saratoga at the World Fantasy Con. He seemed to be a nice fellow, but I haven’t read any of his books yet, alas. No judgment there. There’s too many books and too little time. A lot of my fans seem to like the Malazan series, though, and I imagine I will get to it eventually. I do read other fantasists all the time. I’ve raved about Scott Lynch and Daniel Abraham on my website. Right now I’m reading the first novel by a guy named Patrick Rothfuss, and enjoying it hugely, though I have some quibbles with the structure.”

  13. Alison
    Posted April 20, 2008 at 9:04 PM | Permalink

    I’ve been to Amherst! It was gorgeous. And I was there during a teddy bear festival of some kind.Also, my friend’s car is named Diogenes.

  14. Jillian
    Posted April 20, 2008 at 9:35 PM | Permalink

    Wow, Pat, you’re seriously on your way to becoming a famous eccentric! :)(Incidently and in case you’re interested, I came accross NOTW- the Paperback Revenge at a book shop in Canberra yesterday. So it’s here too! I’m still trying to get an entry for “most foreign” photo, but have yet to find a kangaroo that will sit still for long enough.)

  15. Kalligenia
    Posted April 20, 2008 at 9:58 PM | Permalink

    I’ve been having one of those weekends and so I came to your blog. I knew you wouldn’t disappoint! I smiled and giggled. I have, no, wait, had two pairs of pants. One for laundry day. I actually broke the zipper in one today, so now I’m down to one.

  16. Jessica
    Posted April 21, 2008 at 12:00 AM | Permalink

    These are my favorite kinds of posts. You are so weird, Pat. In the best kind of way. But, really, you should buy one more pair of pants, and one more pair of shoes. That will free you up for more outdoors adventures, in the rain and whatnot, having something clean and dry spare at home. Also, damn, you’re 11th on the NYT paperback list, you should have two pairs of pants.

  17. Luke Dailey
    Posted April 21, 2008 at 2:20 AM | Permalink

    If my life was a fantasy novel, then reading the parts of your post would have to some sort of dire prophecy. Or at least heavy foreshadowing. Odds are I’m going to end up living in minimum-rent apartments with sparse furniture and a bedless mattress once I get out of college; not because I’m really frugal or anything, it’s just what I’m more comfortable with. Which has made freshman year with a comically materialistic roommate that much more fun.

  18. Kim
    Posted April 21, 2008 at 4:28 AM | Permalink

    That is completely and utterly badass. You are the master Pat. I admire your simplicity of living. I have to admit that I’m surrounded by stuff, and I like it, although your living choices sound like a dream sometimes.

  19. Indii
    Posted April 21, 2008 at 11:24 AM | Permalink

    Congratulations! I’m really looking forward to your book being released in Germany this fall. I’ve just read the announcement from the German publisher.Until then, I keep on reading your blog. It is incredibly funny, so thanks for giving us such an insight to the life of a writer.Maik

  20. Anonymous
    Posted April 21, 2008 at 4:53 PM | Permalink

    I never heard of you until I saw the ad in the New York Times book review section yesterday. I walked two blocks to my local fantasy bookstore White Drwarf books and bought a copy. I started reading it last night. Very good so far.I guess advertising really does work.John from Vancouver BC

  21. Sedulo
    Posted April 21, 2008 at 6:18 PM | Permalink

    I bet Diogenes would have liked some socks.Not sure about the bed.

  22. Anonymous
    Posted April 21, 2008 at 7:21 PM | Permalink

    Cool! I couldn’t help but notice the bold print on the page next to your book add. Animal Husbandry, Nonrequired Reading and Correction.That probably means nothing.Cheers,Todd

  23. Jordan R
    Posted April 21, 2008 at 7:50 PM | Permalink

    That is 3 kinds of awesome!

  24. Amanda
    Posted April 21, 2008 at 10:07 PM | Permalink

    Really and truly, Pat… you’re my hero.If I had seen you walking around Point yesterday barefoot, I would have smiled and nudged whoever was next to me and went “<>That’s<> my favorite author,” almost like a kid brags about her awesome dad.

  25. Bibi
    Posted April 22, 2008 at 1:43 AM | Permalink

    YAY PAT!<333

  26. elly rainbow
    Posted April 22, 2008 at 3:43 AM | Permalink

    so i just finished your book. i had the day off and spent it alternating between your book and playing Mythos (a diablo-esque MMORPG at http://www.mythos.com/). they were a good pairing, but by noon i realized that i would be spending most of the day reading, as i just could not stop going back to this incredible book.when i was in college, i studied some pretty intense history (reformation history and luther and whatnot) and i would spend hours in the memorial library reading and absorbing material. when i finally left, i would be in a scholarly daze, feeling incredibly GOOD about all of the brain fuzz that i had.that’s how i felt after finishing your book. i’m still sort of reeling – for the last hundred pages or so i was begging it not to end though i was clearly turning pages. most of me was completely absorbed in the story-within-a-story but about a sixth of me kept a running monologue of “NON NOOONONONONONO NONON NOOO it can’t end!!”if you’ve ever seen david tennant’s doctor who when he’s in a sticky situation and chanting NONONONO, that’s what my brain sounded like.so yeah, thank you. i am annoyed that i missed seeing you at OddCon, but you’re swinging back by to WisCon, so i’m going to get my booty there. :)thanks.

  27. Reverend Sin
    Posted April 22, 2008 at 5:37 AM | Permalink

    Dear Patrick,I’ve been meaning to write a comment for you for some time now but haven’t had the occasion to until now.Like you, I’ve lived happily poor for most of my life, I have one pair of pants as well, one pair of shoes etc etc all of my stuff is hand me down, even parts of the PC I’m posting from.However, the one thing that I have always splurged on, and will always continue to splurge on are novels.Now, there’s something you have to understand about me. I read a lot. I’m not saying that like someone who says “Oh I’ve read 10 or so novels this year.” I’m talking like I’ve read 10 novels ‘this month’. I own hundreds and hundreds of novels, probably in the thousands by now and I’m still quite young and hoping to read thousands more.Having said that, I have to say something about Name of the Wind. On the day it was released I was wandering dejectedly through my local Borders, knowing full well there wasn’t likely anything in the fantasy Fiction section that would be worth picking up as I’d already read everything in the fantasy fiction section and so far as I knew no established authors were due to release anything anytime soon. I was more killing time than anything.Then it happened. To this day I still clearly remember, and often remark upon the feeling of passing by the shelf Name of the Wind was resting on. They hadn’t faced them, they were all ordered like all of the other books and normally I would have just kept walking. But instead I stopped, for a reason I couldn’t quite fathom, perhaps it was a deeper readers intuition saying “Hey, wait, there’s something new here.” So I turned around and I went back looking for it, and what I found was a hardbound copy of your novel.So I sat down and read the opening chapter there in the store, and I was hooked. I couldn’t stop reading, my fiancee reappeared from wherever she had been lurking in the mall and tried to usher me out, but I couldn’t move, I was entranced. I knew immediately that I “had” to have this book, the cost of acquiring it was irrelevant, I needed it like a drowning man needs air. I vaguely remember paying for it on the way out, and I even feel kind of bad for the poor guy who checked me out because I wasn’t in the mood for the usual polite banter that accompanies my transactions at this Borders, I tossed some bills at him and snarled at him and made it quite clear that if he didn’t hand over my book I was going to take it, and probably his arm and half of the desk with it.Thankfully my fiancee is the understanding sort that knew when the “Book Madness” was on me, so she wasn’t too upset when I ignored her for the next 24 hours.To say I read your book that first time would be inaccurate. I devoured it whole. It took nearly a year before enough of the story had faded in my mind for me to read it again, which I did just the other day.I am slightly ashamed to admit that I loaned my copy of Name of the Wind to equally avid, yet substantially poorer associates of mine. It’s become quite ragged in the last year, but has been passed through several pairs of hands in that time and is well loved.I understand that you have First Time Author jitters, it’s your baby and your excited to see it grow. I was happy to see it on the extended NY Times Best Seller list, though honestly I think it should have been #1 in any category they put it in for 2007.I count among my collection every novel ever penned in the Dragonlance, Forgotten Realms, Greyhawk, and Ravenloft settings. I have every novel written by Robert Jordan, David Gemmel, David Eddings, Raymond E. Feist, Anne Bishop, George R.R. Martin, Terry Goodkind, Terry Pratchett, Terry Brooks, Mercedes Lackey, Kate Elliott, J.V. Jones, and an entire host of other no less esteemed authors. I am very, very proud to now count Patrick Rothfuss as a part of that list.Name of the Wind was not just good, it was simply amazing. Your approach to telling Kvothe’s story, the characters and the world they i

  28. Teefers Treats
    Posted April 22, 2008 at 4:35 PM | Permalink

    I love that you actually did go out without your shoes on. And congratulations on making it big, Pat!

  29. matt
    Posted April 23, 2008 at 2:36 PM | Permalink

    You inspired me, Pat… I walked all the way to work yesterday barefoot and content. When I arrived five hours late with bloody feet, my boss reminded me of the “steel-toed boots” requirement. Damn! Tonight I’m throwing out the bed, which I won’t need since I’m leaving for work 5 hours early :)

  30. White-Tean
    Posted April 26, 2008 at 10:48 AM | Permalink

    Move to Australia, here in Perth you can wander into any shopping centre wearing just a pair of boardshorts (at least, the surfer types always do~!)Of course, that would require a second set of pants technically.

  31. Josh
    Posted April 28, 2008 at 3:31 PM | Permalink

    If life were like Planescape (oh, if only life were like Planescape), you’d be a member of the Sensate faction (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Faction_%28Planescape%29).

  32. Aegis
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 12:14 AM | Permalink

    Hee I have been sleeping on a mattress on the floor for about 7 years now. This week I am moving and marks the first time I will have a real bed. It’s such a wonderful thing! I have some other furniture that I have scavenged off the streets on forays during garbage night. Carrying couches across town under the cover of night has greatly increased my upper body strength. Now if I could only convince myself to write more often and perhaps finish my book (if the flash games don’t do me in) I can aspire to be like you. (most likely less critically acclaimed and more female)Yay for beds! Celebrate the snuggliness of the new comforter!Horray!

  33. Dischord
    Posted May 3, 2008 at 3:05 AM | Permalink

    Why so happy about that ad in the New York Times? Your publisher just blew your entire promotional budget on a huge ad in a paper that fantasy readers don’t read and that people who don’t like fantasy do read. It’s basically an easy way to blow off your promotion clause. Wouldn’t it have been better to advertise your book in Locus and Asimov’s and Cemetery Dance and every sci-fi/fantasy/anime/media convention program book in the country? You know, to the people who actually might buy the book?

  34. PirateXxEsque
    Posted May 23, 2010 at 2:31 AM | Permalink

    Did all of these older blogs have tons of comments, back in the day, or were you just not popular when you wrote them? :P

    I believe I have the same sort of curiosity.
    Even in my own city, I love walking around and kinda learning a new suburb, or a new road.

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