So Larry Correia wrote an awesome rant the other day about fan entitlement and writing professionalism. The thing that set him off was a discussion on his author Facebook page where a bunch of readers were castigating Patrick Rothfuss for taking 6+ years to write his next book. A bunch of them started arguing that authors have a moral obligation to their readers to finish their books, and Larry called bullshit.
Do I have opinions? Why, yes, thank you for asking.
For the most part, I think Larry is spot on, especially about how free market capitalism is the best solution to this problem. Basically, books are just a product—nothing more, nothing less. Readers buy the product, and authors create it. When a reader buys a book, that’s all they’re buying. When an author writes a book, that’s all they’re creating. The free market works things out. The problems only arise when readers think they’re entitled to something more than what they’ve bought, or when authors think they’re entitled to more than what they’ve earned.
As a libertarian sci-fi writer, I could go on and on about the virtues of the free market and how capitalism is the best and most righteous economic system ever invented by man, but for now I’ll save that zeal for my fiction. In particular, there’s a short story recently I wrote for a $12,000 writing contest that is sure to lose because it shows just how evil and destructive a universal basic income would actually be. But I digress.
I know people mean well. I know people think they are helping. I know that you think it is a compliment. Maybe the first couple hundred times, but then after that it becomes a continual droning whine.
If a writer still bothers to post on social media to interact with their fans, and they post about them doing anything, literally anything other than writing, somebody inevitably is going to jump in and say “YOU SHOULD BE WRITING!”
The really sad part you helpful entitled types don’t get is that other stuff non-writing stuff is a vital part of the creative process. Since most of what authors do is in their heads, they never really stop working. So when I’m shooting guns, or painting minis, that is the activity that I do to uncork my brain, so that I can go put in another day of creating imaginary stuff tomorrow.
Authors either have a life outside of writing, or they burn out. Or, alternatively, they just check out and don’t interact with their fans anymore. Because even though there are a hundred cool fans for every entitled whiny douche, the entitled whiny douche is the one that sticks out.
Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. I’m not at a point in my career yet where I have thousands of rabid-at-the-mouth fans screaming at me constantly to get back to work, but I can definitely see how it gets old.
Also, writers genuinely do need to refill the creative well from time to time. To an outside observer, it might look like we’re dicking around, but in reality we’re noodling out our next story, so that when we do sit down to write, the words actually come.
If you think that writing is as easy as sitting down at a keyboard and mashing out words, you might as well kidnap your favorite author, break his legs, and chain him to a typewriter in your basement.
To My Fellow Authors
Get your shit together.
Seriously, act like a professional. In any other job in the world, if you wasted all your time fucking around and didn’t get any work done, you’d get fired. Writer’s Block is a filthy lie. I couldn’t have Accountant’s Block. Oh, woe is me, I can’t make these spreadsheets because I’m just not feeling it today—FIRED.
But if you’re honestly working, and you’re doing the best you can with what you’ve got, you don’t have to take shit off of entitled douches.
The trouble with writing is that it isn’t always clear when the work is done. I’ve had multiple award-winning author friends tell me at conventions that they’re impressed with how prolific I am, and yet I never—NEVER—feel like my work is done.
I totally agree with Larry that if you want to write professionally, you have to treat it like an actual profession. Right now, I’m retooling my writing process so that I can put out two or three times as many books. “Writer’s block” is not an entitlement or a badge of honor. It’s a disease.
This YouTube video is the best take I’ve seen on the subject. I watch it over and over again, sometimes every day. Whenever I don’t think I can meet my next deadline. Whenever I feel like there’s something repelling me from sitting down to write. Rewatching this video gives me a burning desire to finish my WIP, look that resistance in the face, and scream “rest in peace, motherfucker!” I swear, I should get that woodburned on a plaque and hang it over my desk. Best motivation ever.
Screw writer’s block. Screw all that artsy fartsy crap. There’s nothing quite so awesome as looking at your name on a book cover and thinking “yeah, I wrote that.” It never gets old.
I remember a couple years ago when I ran into a really successful author, dude was on top of the world, just got home from a successful book tour, latest book was a huge hit… and he was bummed. I’m talking super depressed. Why? Because Lone Douche in the Wilderness had just ripped him apart on Facebook, and that negativity was enough to screw up all his previous happiness.
Do not give douchebags power over you. Don’t ever let people impose their arbitrary and capricious rules onto you.
To be frankly honest, this is one of the reasons why I don’t do social media anymore. Not because I have a thin skin or can’t take criticism. Not because of a specific instance where someone was a douchebag to me, either. Rather, it was more of a recognition that if I didn’t change course, I would become that douchebag—if indeed I hadn’t already.
There’s something about our current iterations of social media that seems to bring out the worst in people. Twitter in particular is insanely toxic. Future historians (and historical fiction writers) are going to have a heyday writing about all of the online meltdowns of our most prominent cultural and political figures, right up to President Trump himself. It’s a daily occurance at this point, sadly. And yet, the more I look at it, the more it seems that the only winning move in social media is not to play.
Which is not to say that I don’t want to keep in touch with my fans. That’s what this blog and my email list are for. But speaking as a reader for a moment, when I buy a book, I’m not trying to strike up a friendship with the guy who wrote it. I’m just buying a book. Neither am I particularly interested in hearing about whatever social or political cause set them off on a rant today. I just want to read the damn book.
It’s called free market capitalism, and it makes everything so much simpler. If a book looks interesting, I’ll buy it. If I like it, I’ll buy more from the same author. It’s cool and all to feel like we have a connection, but at the end of the day, it’s just books. And readers. And the free market.
Anyways. That’s my take on Larry’s epic rant. Writers and readers, be excellent to each other. That is all.