So just a couple minutes ago, I was reading through my fanmail and I got to the following letter.
I don’t know how to go about this, so I will just explain: I write a fictional blog set in the zombie apocalypse, and today in my post I referenced you… Since this is a work of fiction I have tried to get permission from any person I mention by name, and I wanted to make sure that this is alright with you. If you would like to read the entry, here’s the link.
If you would like me to edit you out, please let me know, and I will do so immediately.
I am a HUGE fan, by the way. I have purchased no fewer than four hardback copies of The Name of the Wind, and two paperbacks. People love them as gifts.
Looking forward to Wise Man’s Fear.
My first thought was that Joshua was terribly polite. So I hopped over and checked out the link to make sure he didn’t have me dancing around in a leopard-print unitard or anything like that. Then, when I saw that I wasn’t, I dropped him an e-mail telling him it’s all cool.
My second thought was that while he didn’t ask me a question, there’s definitely one implied in his post.
Specifically: If there was a zombie apocalypse, and society collapsed, would I still keep working on my books?
It’s a good question. And after thinking about it, I’m a little surprised to say yes. I would.
The reason this is surprising to me is that I’m at the end of a long, LONG, jag of revisions.
How can I put this in perspective for you…?
How about this: I’m assuming most of you have written papers for school. And, because I assume most of you are kinda like me, I’m guessing you put off writing those papers until the night before they were due. (Or, in the case of more involved college research papers, you put them off until the weekend before they were due.)
So let’s go back and remember those long, desperate nights of paper-writing together: It’s late at night. You’re exhausted. You are absolutely fucking sick of the paper because you’ve been banging away on it for hours and hours.
Then you finally finish it. Relief. You are free. You can rest.
But then you think to yourself, “I should really read through it one more time to catch any last minute mistakes.” Because while you might be a procrastinator, that doesn’t mean you’re an idiot.
So you start to read even though you’re weary. Even though you hate your paper so much that re-reading it is like chewing sand. You read it one last time even though the topic you’re writing about fills you with such loathing that you could just shit yourself with rage.
And, as you read it one last time, you find a handful of mistakes that would have made you look like an absolute fuckwit. So you’re glad you put in the effort. But still, it was pretty excruciating.
Are we unified in our shared experience? Do you remember what that last read-through is like?
I did that read-through of the book six months ago.
And I am still working on the book.
Now in the interest of complete honesty, I should mention that I took a bit of a break after that sick-to-fucking-death read-through.
And I don’t mean to imply that every minute is excruciating. Sometimes I read a bit I’d forgotten about, and I think, “Wow, that’s really good.” Sometimes when I finally fix a long-standing problem (like how to plausibly arrange events so Bast, Ambrose, and Elodin can have a threeway) it feels great.
But the fact is that working on revisions is just that: work. What’s more, it’s work I’ve been doing it every day for months and months. I haven’t seen a movie since I caught Sherlock Holmes in the theater.
No. Wait. That’s not true. In a fit of madness I rented Transformers II about five months ago. While I was watching it, I remember thinking, “Huh? This makes no sense. Has it been so long since I watched a movie that I can’t understand them anymore?”
But no. It was just a horrendous pile of shit. Someone deserves to be punched in the neck for that movie.
Wait. What was I talking about again? Oh yeah. Revisions.
My point is that I’ve been doing revisions when I’ve really wanted to be doing other things. Like play with my baby, or re-watch Firefly, or go outside on the rare, jewel-like days when the weather here in Wisconsin isn’t like living in the crack of Satan’s ass.
Simply said, as I’ve mentioned before, everybody hates their job sometimes.
That’s why I was surprised when I asked myself that question. It only took me a few seconds to realize the answer: Yes.
Yes. If society collapsed, I would keep working on the books. I’d do it even if I knew they’d never be published.
And you know what? I’d still be every bit as obsessive about my revision as I am now. The only difference would be that my timetable would be more relaxed, and I’d probably have to work a little harder to find beta readers….
This was actually a rather nice revelation for me. It’s easy to focus on the fact that I *have* to work on the book. That line of thinking can get overwhelming for me sometimes. There’s a lot of pressure. A lot of stress.
It’s nice to remember that I also *want* to work on the book. It’s nice to remember that I love telling this story and that I’m lucky to have the freedom to revise obsessively, as is my nature.
But for all that, I have to say, I’m going to be really glad when it’s finished and I can move on….