Friday, October 30, 2009
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

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