Tag Archives: email.

Everyone Hates Their Job Sometimes…

Here’s the truth. Sometimes I hate writing this fucking book.

I know this isn’t something most of you want to hear. You want to hear that it’s going well. (Which is it.) You also want to hear that I love every moment of writing it. It’s my baby, right? You have to love your baby…

Well, yes. But technically I’ve been working on this trilogy since 1994. The book is more like a teenager in some ways. You love a teenager too, but you can also be angry with a teenager. And sick of its endless shit.

The problem is this. People want to believe that being a published writer is a beautiful, happily-ever-after, candy mountain place where all your dreams come true.

Unfortunately, that’s bullshit.

This is a part of something I’ve come to think of as The Myth of the Author. I’m not going to get into the details right now. That’s a blog for a whole different day. But the gist of my theory is that, in general, people think of writers as a different sort of person. And by extension, writing is a different sort of work. It’s strange and wonderful. It’s a mystic process. It can’t be quantified. It’s not chemistry, it’s alchemy.

While some of that is true, this belief makes it really difficult for me to bitch about my job.

For example, if a doctor wrote a blog saying. “Fuck! sometimes I hate being a doctor…” People would read it and say, “Yeah man. I can see where you’re coming from. Long hours. Tons of responsibility. People expect a lot out of you. That’s a rough gig.”

On the other hand, if I come on here and bitch about my job. People will be disappointed. Irritated even.

Why would people be irritated? For several reasons.

Reason #1: It’s irritating when people complain about having a simple job.


Of course, writing a novel isn’t simple. Anyone that’s ever tried writing one knows this. The problem is, a lot of people haven’t tried. They assume writing is easy because, technically, anyone can do it.

To illustrate my point: Just as I was getting published, I met one of the big, A-list fantasy authors. (Who will remain nameless here.)

He told me the story of the time he’d met a doctor at a party. When the author mentioned that he wrote for a living, the doctor said: “Yeah, I was going to write a novel. But I just don’t seem to have the time.”

The author got a irritated just telling me this story. “When you say something like that,” he said. “It’s like saying being a writer doesn’t take any skill. It’s something anyone can do. But only a very slim percentage of the population can write well enough to make a living at it. It’s like going up to a doctor and saying, ‘yeah. My appendix was inflamed. I was going to take it out myself, but I didn’t really have the time.'”

Newbie writer that I was, I simply enjoyed the story, privately thinking that surely *my* readers would never be so foolish to assume that. And even if they did, I wouldn’t mind that much…

Fast forward to earlier this year, when I got the following e-mail:

Hi Patrick,

I’m a librarian, former teacher. I just read your book, very good. But, boy do you have a problem. Finishing tasks?? Why isn’t your editor doing a better job of guiding you? Here’s my quick recommendation: stop going to conventions. Your first book is a great hit, you don’t need any more marketing there. Sit down and decide where to END the second part. You don’t need to write any more. If book two is anything like book one, it is basically chronological. You’re done with book two!! Stop in a logical place, smooth out the transitions, and begin obsessing about book three. Good luck.

For those of you who have been reading the blog for a while, this is the letter I was thinking about mocking Waaaay back in May.

Re-reading it now, most of my irritation has faded. But my profound sensation of *What the Fuck* is still as strong as ever.

Let’s not even deal with the first half of the letter. Let’s ignore the fact that this woman isn’t a publicist, an editor, or my personal life-coach. Let’s jump straight to how she explains how I should write my book:

Oh. I need to sit down. I see. I need to know where to END it. I hadn’t thought of that.

And chronological order? Brilliant! Up until this point I’d been arranging all the chapters by length.

I mean seriously. You people do know that I have to make the entire book up, right? I’m not just cribbing it out of Kvothe’s biography, right?

Right?

And I lack the words to express my stupification at the offhand advice that I should just “smooth out the transitions.”

That’s not true. I do have the words. They go like this: “If this is the sort of advice you used to give your students when you were a teacher, thank you for not being a teacher any more.”

I counted yesterday. Do you know book two has eighteen fucking plotlines? Six entirely distinct settings, each with their own casts of characters? How exactly to I smooth that out? Do you think I just go down to the writing store, buy some fucking transition putty, and slather it on?

Okay. I lied. I guess I’m still irritated.

Truth is, I know that this letter comes from a place of love. This person is genuinely trying to help me. Deep in her heart of hearts, this woman believes she knows how to write a novel. The answers are so obvious. It seems simple to her…

This is why some folks will get irritated if I complain about my job. Because they think writing is simple.

But it isn’t. Nobody’s job is as simple as it looks from the outside.

Reason #2: It’s not cool to complain about your dream job.

I’m well aware of the fact that, I’m living the dream. A lot of people want to be published. They want it so bad they can taste it. They’d give anything…

I know this because that’s how I used to feel.

I’m lucky: I got published. What’s more, I’m one of the few writers that gets to write full time. Even better, I’ve gone international, and people all over the world are waiting for the next book.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t hate my job sometimes.

It doesn’t matter what you do for a living. Ron Jeremy probably calls in sick some days because he just can’t stand the thought of getting another blowjob. I don’t doubt that Mike and Jerry over at Penny Arcade occasionally wake up in the morning and think, “Fuck, I’ve got to play more fucking video games today.”

That’s just the way of the world. Everyone hates their own job sometimes. It’s an inalienable right, like life, liberty, and the pursuit of property.

Reason #3: The Myth of the Author.

People want to believe that the act of creation is a magical thing. When I write, I am like some beardy old-word god, hewing the book from some raw piece of literary firmament. When I write, the muse is like a lithe, naked woman, sitting on my lap with her tongue in my ear.

(This would make a great bookjacket photo.)

And you want to know the truth? Sometimes it’s exactly like that. Sometimes when I write, I’m so full of adrenaline that I could lift up a truck. I can feel my my tripartite soul burning in my chest like molten gold.

But sometimes it sucks. Just like any job. I get bored revising the same chapters over and over. My back hurts from hunching over the keyboard. I am so tired of fucking spellcheck. Do you know how long it takes to run spellcheck on 350,000 words?

I’m tired of trying to juggle everything: the plotlines, the character arcs, the realistic depiction of a fantastic world, the pacing, the word choice, the tension, the tone, the stories-within-stories. Half of it would be easy, but getting everything right at once? It’s like trying to play cat’s cradle in n-dimensional space.

The truth is, sometimes I’m so sick of sitting in front of this computer I could shit bile.

There. That’s all. I’m not quitting. I’m not even taking the night off. I just needed to vent.

Thanks for being here. Remember to tip your waitress. I’ll be here all week.

pat

Posted in BJ Hiorns Art, fanmail, Rage, the man behind the curtain, Things I didn't know about publishing | By Pat286 Responses

Upcoming Appearances and Internet Etiquette

So the power was out in my neighborhood today. This doomed me to an afternoon of stewing in my own juice. The weather in Wisconsin right now has been roughly equivalent to living inside a dog’s mouth. It was not a good day to be without air conditioning.

Also, the power outage threw a wrench into my plan to fine-tune and post another blog about Europe. So, instead, I decided to pass along some news and answer a piece of fanmail I got yesterday instead.

First the news: I’ve just finished updating the tour page.

The busy part of convention season is fast approaching, and I’ve got a lot of events scheduled over the next couple months. From relatively small conventions and signings here in Wisconsin (I’m in Wausau this Saturday, btw) to big conventions in Indianapolis, Minneapolis, Montreal, and San Diego.

(Rare footage of the elusive Rothfuss at his natural migratory habitat: the convention.)

At some of these conventions, I even get to be Guest of Honor. I’m not sure, but I think this means someone will be contractually obliged to fan me with a large palm leaf. I also expect to be given a shiny medal of some sort or at least a rather dapper-looking hat.

(The Rothfuss uses his bright plumage to lure readers into panels, where he devours them. )

So head on over to the page and take a look at where I’m going to be. I go to these to meet readers and hang out, so the more the merrier.

Now the piece of e-mail:

Pat,

I have a quick question I hope you don’t mind answering. I saw you do that sometimes in your blogs.

After finishing The Name of the Wind, I called my local bookstore to see when the next book was coming out. They didn’t know. So I called my local Library. They didn’t know. So eventually, I gritted my teeth and borrowed a friend’s internet and found your blog.

Over the next week I read all of it. Including most of the comments. I was a little addicted. I’m guessing it took me fifty hours.

I don’t have a question about book two. Take your time. But as someone who doesn’t spend a lot of time online, I am curious about this whole blog thing. Specifically about the comments you receive on your blog. After reading these, I feel like I know a lot of the posters.

Many of them are funny, and some of them are really clever… But some of them seem downright insensitive or rude.

What is up with that? Am I just oversensitive, or are a lot of the people commenting on your blog actually rather rude?

I’m tempted to say it’s the former. I’m not really a blog reader. And I’ve always assumed that people smart enough to read your book would also be courteous and polite.

Sincerely,

Jen J.

Jen,

I’ve always assumed that people who read my book are not only intelligent and polite, but more attractive and better in bed than your average person. They also smell like fresh pie.

Unfortunately, the internet is like a great machine designed to make humanity look stupid. Oh sure, there are good things the internet does for us. Smart things. Noble things. But for every one person using distributed computing to cure cancer, there are ten people forwarding me a letter that threatens impotence and the death of a fluffy kitten if I dare to break the chain.

The problem is this. The internet is allows people to do things very quickly.

Now don’t get me wrong, some things are better done quickly. Getting someone to the hospital. Mowing the lawn. Making my 7-layer burrito.

But many things are not improved by speed. Most things, actually: Backrubs. Baths. Getting a haircut. Writing a novel. Cuddling. Kissing.

And blog commenting. Contrary to what people believe, fast is not always better in terms of communication.

The problem is, language is a slippery thing. People have a hard enough time getting their point across when they’re face-to-face. Over the phone is harder because you can’t see body language or facial expression.

But pure text is the hardest. That’s why e-mail misunderstandings abound, because you don’t even have timing or vocal inflection to help get your point across.

This means when a person types a comment without thinking things through, it’s much more likely that their intended message will get lost and they’ll seem rude when they really didn’t mean to be.

Take my announcement today for example. I know what’s going to happen as soon as I post about my upcoming convention appearances.

I’m going to get people posting comments that say things like: “Screw Indianapolis! Come to Mucwanigo!!! We have a bookstore!!!1!!”

Now this person probably wants to say three things:

1. They have a lot of enthusiasm for me and my work.
2. They won’t be able to make it to Indianapolis and this ensaddens them.
3. They’d appreciate it if I came to Mucwanigo.

But despite the egregious overuse of exclamation points, this is not what this comment actually communicates. To a lot of readers, this comment seems rude. Here’s why.

Signings and conventions require a great deal of effort on the author’s part. Doing a even a handful of events like this means an author will spend dozens of hours on planes breathing recycled farts, hours scheduling panels and e-mailing plans, then days at the event itself.

It’s also expensive, thousands of dollars on plane tickets, taxis, hotel rooms, and overpriced airport burritos.

Knowing all of this, a courteous internet user can understand why a comment of, “Why don’t you ever come to St. Augustine?” seems a little insensitive.

At the same time, rude is sometimes in the eye of the beholder, too. That’s why I try my best to read comments in the spirit they were written. That means looking at them with a generous eye sometimes, trying to cherish the enthusiasm and ignore the fact that the poster didn’t take the time to think things through.

Still, when someone writes, “Minneapolis is a whole 30 miles away! Come to Wanamingo!” it’s bound make me feel like a cat that’s been rubbed backwards.

Not only is it issued as a command (which is never endearing) but it implies that even though the author is traveling several hundred miles, leaving his pregnant girlfriend home alone for the weekend, and effectively skipping his own birthday, he still isn’t doing enough to please you.

So that’s what I think is going on in the comments, Jen. Sure there are a few mean-spirited or genuinely snarky people out there making posts. But the vast majority of the people that come across as rude are probably just guilty of posting without thinking things through.

Of course my readers. My clever readers. My clever, polite, sexy, apple-pie readers are a class of person quite above the normal internet rabble. They think twice before they post. Some of them even think three times. Right?

Right?

Later space cowboys,

pat

Posted in appearances, conventions, Fanmail Q + A, signing books | By Pat142 Responses
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