I’ve just read this brilliant post from Neil Gaiman about audience entitlement (“why is George R R Martin doing anything else rather than writing his next book for me?”) and I could not agree more. (Read from the bold bit on down.)
One thing I heard loud and clear when I was studying creative writing at UEA (only the BA) was that more life makes for better, more complex writing. Life is the time when you experience and learn things which you will then want to write about, and that it’s also the time when your brain starts to untangle threads, notice patterns, and work out what’s worthy of harvesting and analysing.
This is why a lot of juvenilia suffers from melodrama overload: if you haven’t had much life experience yet, you’ll crowbar in ‘drama’ in the way of THE MOST DRAMATIC THING YOU CAN THINK ABOUT – OH GOD WHAT IF A LION TORE HIS MOTHER APART IN FRONT OF HIM WHEN HE WAS SIX YEARS OLD! ON HIS BIRTHDAY! THAT’S WHY HE’S ALWAYS HATED BIRTHDAYS!
In the last few weeks I’ve finished up a centrepiece of my Edinburgh Fringe show and it’s about a verbal tick I observed in someone NINE YEARS AGO. It took me nine years to go off, have a life, get built up and knocked down a few times and come back to this interesting little thing I’d observed with more grownup, sympathetic eyes.
One of our professors at UEA swore by DIY as a great writing tool. Tinkering about the house was the time he was occupied by something else so his subconscious brain could get to work.
They said for creative writing MA applications, that in quite a lot of cases they’d tell people “you write very well, but you’re still green. Go piss off for a few years, go experience more life, and then come back to us when you’ve had more life to write about.”
If George R R Martin is doing things other than writing the next Game of Thrones book, then I know you want the next one, but be patient. In addition to the sleeping, eating, chores and all the other crap that we all have to do: he’s also living. Every moment not spent chained to his keyboard is a moment he is experiencing other things which may, in a roundabout way, work their way into his next book. It might be a facial expression he observes, it might be something he reads, it might be some documentary on trauma which makes him think about how he’s plotted a character and that actually, after X, Y and Z have happened to them, they might be more likely to respond to this new situation in a different way.
George R R Martin is not your bitch, and if you stuck him in a deep dark cell with only a typewriter and a large supply of amphetamines just so he could finish ‘your’ next precious Game of Thrones book: it might hit the bookstores earlier than if you left him to it, but it might not be a better book for it.