George RR Martin and The Artist’s Pace

Today is a great day because, at long last, A World of Ice and Fire is released. I for one am torn between getting the physical book (lovingly labeled a “coffee table book” by the author) and the audio book for my commute, but whatever way I return to Westeros, I’m happy to be returning to Westeros. As you can tell from my previous post about Tolkien, I am a big fan of fantasy and expanded world building. This looks like it’s akin to Rowling creating ancillary texts in Quidditch Through The Ages and Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, both books that I love.

However, something has happened within the past evening, and this is also an issue that has been boiling since 2011. As I browsed Audible and Amazon to read a few reviews of each version I was interested in buying, I found a handful of mostly negative reviews.

Odd, I thought. This book is highly anticipated. Could it really all be crap? Even with all the art and excerpts that were released? Surely someone must have loved this book?

No, I told myself. The negative reviews couldn’t be because the book is crap. It could, however, be a case of angry fans. If you look through the reviews for this book, you will find that the majority of the reviews are by people who haven’t even read this book. Fans have decided to take the space that is usually reserved for actual reviews and are standing upon it as a spot to post their disdain for Martin who has yet to finish The Winds Of Winter.

I think this sort of behavior is really detrimental to the author. This man holds the keys to the kingdom, yet his entire life is not his books. The books are now his job, yes. But, he has a routine outside of sitting and typing. He has a family, obligations, and the need to eat and sleep the same as all of us. As you can find in multiple interviews, Martin has found his flow with his personal, older computer. He has his traditions, and it’s these traditions as writers that we must honor. I know for myself I do my best writing towards the end of the day if it’s during the week, when everyone is quiet and asleep, and if it’s the weekend, I do my best work during the day when everyone is outside or doing other things that don’t affect my workspace.

Writing is all about the mind, and how we nurture our creativity is key to our productivity.

Using the space for reviews to badger Martin into writing faster is not going to do anything other than skew reviews for a book that is probably very good. I will be walking down to the local bookstore on my lunch break to grab a copy and I will ignore the complaints that Winds Of Winter is overdue. At the same time, I will say this: Let Martin work at his own pace.

As an artist myself, I can tell you that we all set goals for ourselves (unless you don’t want your work to see the light of day, which is fine), and sometimes not a single thing can get us to work faster. Not a missed deadline, not a scathing review, not a hit television show. The art tells us the pace at which to work, not the other way around. Fantasy and fiction in general is something created from nothing, given to us in hints that are inspired by things in the real world. Sometimes a scene is incomplete until a random event crosses our path during our daily life. Only then do we know the solution to our roadblock on the page. It’s a constantly evolving form of storytelling that comes in waves. The book does not rest 100% in Martin’s head at a single time, just waiting for him to “buckle down and do the typing”. It is added together on the page in chunks until it is there in its entirety. Furthermore, he is a pantser! That makes the task even more difficult. I can’t imagine trying to be a pantser again. I vowed that after my first fiasco, I would never look back unless it was with an proper outline.

Yes, for the sake of argument, I will admit that Martin has an obligation to the readers to finish his story. We are all waiting with baited breath. But, the fact that four years can slip by with his cliffhangers still a topic of conversation at the water cooler is proof that the story of Westeros is here to stay and that we won’t (and shouldn’t) jump ship over a little impatience. Let the author work at his own pace and we will all be thankful that he did when we have The Winds Of Winter in our trembling hands!

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