There’s something that’s been bothering me for a few days:
Game of Thrones.
Now, I don’t mean the television show or the fact that one of my favorite characters has made it this far only to be mercilessly cut down (shouldn’t be surprised). I really don’t even mean the books. What’s bothering me is the writer: George R. R. Martin—how he’s being mauled by ravenous expectations.
On January 2, 2016 Martin posted a long, heartfelt blog/apology to his fans for not having finished the last book of the series before the next season of the show comes out. Initially, my heart broke reading this. I’m a fan, but it wasn’t impatience. I can wait for the end of this marvelous story. What troubled me was that this man has made a name for himself and he still had trouble juggling life and deadlines. How was I ever going to accomplish anything knowing this? And then it hit me like a Valyrian steel sword—Martin has already accomplished something, and he makes time to write exactly as I do!
Well, I am not someone on the pulse point of writing circles. My experience stems from reading, reading, more reading, and my own attempt at writing something, anything that takes my fancy. The fact that I don’t have much experience doesn’t upset me; it excites me. There’s so much left to learn, to do, to be. I’m shaping. Being a published, professional author will not stop my shaping either.
What makes writers so interesting is not that we’re super human, that we can take on exorbitant amounts of information and process it better than the rest of our species, but that we are regular, every-day humans and we simply recognize and remember what it is to be human. Life demands creativity, but creativity cannot be summoned at will. It can be cultivated and the craft can be practiced, but life is life, and strangely enough, this very art of being doesn’t always allow for creative expression.
Even if I didn’t have a day job, I’d still have a day job. I’m a parent, and children need attention and care. This doesn’t bother me, really. My children were a choice and they are lovely bits of inspiration for my writing. They are my muses—messy, whining, adorable muses. However, I can’t count the times that a particularly exuberant episode of Bo On the Go has stifled my ability to concentrate. The damn show permeates every room in my house! Something so simple and yet it stifles me. I’m probably going to do damage to that hyperactive little weirdo as a character in one of my novels. A writer’s revenge is sweet!
Indeed, writing is fun. When given the time and peace to do it, I can take off like a rocket to the moon. Writing is my passion and it gives me so much joy! But that doesn’t mean it’s easy, or that even when I put forth an effort, I’m going to be happy with it initially. The joy is in the process, however long that takes.
I’ve been working on my current fantasy novel for about 3 years now. In between, I earned a degree and wrote a nonfiction book on the Salt River. More importantly though, I also loved and walked this road with my man, raised a couple of kids, had a few anniversaries and birthdays and holidays to celebrate, and spent 40 hours a week working as an editor. The first draft is almost done. So ach-ing-ly cl-o-se! I’ve got goosebumps—from self-doubt as well as excitement. Do I wish for more time? Do I chide myself for not being done yet? Of course I do, but the creative side of me says, “Don’t rush. Enjoy it.” If I spend the rest of my life writing the novels for this series alone, I’ll have lived a life I want to live, published or not. My calling is to write what comes to me. It’s a reader’s job to accept or reject what I’ve given them. If they like it, the only thing they can do is be patient for the next one. It’s my life’s work. Why should I cut corners?
Regrettably, I’ve only been introduced to Martin’s oh-so-human genius through the show. I’ll have to rectify that soon, but, for now, I think I like the outlook on life he presents. Life is so, so precious and fleeting. We all meet the same end, but we don’t all leave the same thing behind. Like Arya Stark with the Faceless Men, I’m still discovering the spiritual aspect of my real life along with the one that plays out in the sparks along the synapses of my brain. All those who create do. We create newness from what is already there. It’s an exhausting and worthwhile process. And because of that, Martin doesn’t need to apologize; however, this novice is grateful for his humility.
So, dear readers and fellow creators, when judging the work of creators, let’s keep a little of Martin’s writer’s instinct in mind—valar dohaeris (all men must serve). I’m happy to be of service to those who want me, to share what I see of the world and what can be made of it. But remember, valar morghulis (all men must die). The ones who realize this make the most of that. We artists, we writers, we’re going to leave something marvelous behind: an offering to the alter of life. Only time can judge if our supplications are worthy. Give us that time.
For the ever-curious, and just because I also admire his work, check out Neil Gaiman’s take on treating artists with respect: http://journal.neilgaiman.com/2009/05/entitlement-issues.html.