While I was in Brighton for the World Fantasy Conference, I was given the opportunity to hear Patrick Rothfuss read from one of his novels at a nearby bookstore. Patrick did a great job and his humor and wit worked well with the foreign audience giving him plenty of material to work with. By sheer chance I was given a seat in the front and after the reading I decided to stay sitting and wait while everyone else lined up to get a book signed. What happened next amazed me.
While it wasn’t my intention to eavesdrop on all the conversations, fans are really passionate people and they’re really hard to ignore. In the time I was there, I was witness to some incredible stories about how the stories Rothfuss created have inspired and improved their readers.
One story spoke of a girl who followed Kvothes lead and decided to go travel the world. Another fan started taking piano lessons after hearing how music was able to move people in the books. Patrick, each time, would look humbled and truly grateful at the words and the sentiments. It was beautiful to watch and inspiring as a distressed author.
My work has been hurting since I would put other tasks before my writing. They’re all important, in my mind, but the other tasks had deadlines and people waiting on me. These tasks would always take priority, and I would just tell myself that I could just write tomorrow. My intentions were good, but it turned into a perpetual postponement of my work. I needed a deadline that would give my writing a fighting chance against these other things that seem to fill my time, and as I starting thinking back on that night in the bookstore the idea occurred to me.
Everyone always says you need to write for yourself. This is true. Don’t lose the love and passion that goes into your writing. Don’t let it become just a job. But don’t let that stop you from looking forward to your work being consumed and truly loved by others. Let that be a motivation that helps keep you moving. Others are out there waiting for that little push that will make their lives greater. When you finish your work, people will read it. Readers will reflect on their own lives as they do so. They’ll put themselves in the place of the protagonist, and wonder why they aren’t out there playing an instrument or traveling the world. They’ll wish they could draw, or sing, or dance like the illusion they paint in their minds eye does. And, in that moment of vulnerability where the hero exceeds expectations and the emotions are riding high, they’ll cheer for that image that is shining in their heads and do something about it.
Let those people become your deadline. They’re out there waiting. Waiting for you to finish your novel. Waiting for that push. Waiting for your work. Write for yourself. Write to tell the story only you can tell. Write to inspire. Write to change the world and keep writing until it happens. Someday, you’ll be sitting in a bookstore surrounded by fans and some troubled author will watch and even that will inspire someone. They’re waiting for you. Go do it!
I think John Green’s sentiment that you should make things as gifts has been one of the best motivators for me. I find that when I create something that I plan to give to someone it is always easier to get started.
So I started thinking of my writing that way. Each chapter is a gift to someone I know. And I want them to read it. I want to someone else to read to make their day better the way my day is improved when I read something wonderful that someone else has written.
I was there that night (I think I was the first person to get a hug from Pat, my friend had to ask for me as I was having a ridiculous attack of shyness at the time!) and was very inspired by Pat.
I used to write a lot for fun but an intensive academic course broke me for writing for pleasure for about a decade.
This year, because of listening to Pat that Halloween, I went home, signed up for NaNoWriMo and wrote a few thousand words before bed.
I hit the 50k wordcount in time and although under no illusion of the quality of my words, the joy in feeling the words flow again has been beyond measure.
I’m about to start reading Kushiel’s Legacy from it being mentioned that night.
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@sara: That’s a beautiful sentiment. I love it. Thanks.
@Poppy: Good work on NaNoWriMo. Don’t stop now. Your masterpiece is inside you, you just need to get rid of the thousands of bad words that are in front of it. Don’t stop writing! Also, it was a fun night in Brighton.