My last couple of weeks have been delegated to conventions. First came WorldCon (MidAmericon II) in Kansas City, and then Pax West in Seattle. While the latter is a predominantly video-game themed convention, it is not without many other elements of fandom. Among the many panels, tournaments, and exhibitions were a few outliers, such as the indeterminate hour occupied by a panel simply titled “An evening with Patrick Rothfuss.”
Any who know me are familiar with my love for this author in all of his quirky variables. This was my third time seeing him live and he simply never becomes boring. If you ever get the chance, please dedicate some time from your day to be in his company. You do not even need to know who he is in order to enjoy yourself. You can hold me to that claim.
To the point, there was one rabbit hole Rothfuss descended during his panel which caught my attention more than anything else. I cannot remember what exactly prompted this discussion, but it was during a Q&A. The subject was about the perception of writing as a hobby versus writing as a profession, and how there is an unfairly strict expectation attached to the relationship between the two.
Paraphrasing his words: “Writing is really unfair, because it’s the only hobby where, if you don’t make it professionally, you are seen as a failure in the public eye. Never do you see somebody playing basketball and think they are a loser because they aren’t in the NBA. Never do you see somebody gardening and think, well, if they aren’t on Home & Gardening, then they clearly didn’t make it. The gardener is allowed to enjoy gardening because it gives them satisfaction and joy. But god forbid, if you’re a writer and haven’t published anything, then you’ve wasted your time.”
There is a titanic burden placed on writers (and most creative arts, really) to become published or publically recognized. Naturally, this is not going to be a common end for most who aspire for it, as not everyone who writes (read: many, many people) will become professionals at the craft. Why are those people then labelled as failures, when they are doing something they love? Now of course, if the writer has a deliberate goal of reaching publication and do not reach it, at this point they might be considered having failed at least in that regard. But writing should not be, as a primary approach, treated like a business. This isn’t to say it can’t be a business, only that it shouldn’t be business first, creative endeavor second.
I’ve never felt like I was wasting time in my writing. Even if I never get published, writing has afforded me an outlet for thoughts, emotions and stress which I haven’t been able to get out by any other means. For that alone, the journey has been worth it. I do aspire to reach publication one day, for at least one book, but I won’t consider myself a failure if I don’t make a career out of it. I’ll still continue to write, because I love it. I may not always like it, per se, but I’ll always love it.
So please, if you write, or paint, or craft in any way that is seen by others as following in a similar social stigma, do not lose heart. Even if your story never sees the public spotlight, do not believe yourself a failure. As a whole, we struggle enough with depression and anxiety and self-deprecation as is, so we needn’t pile onto the weapons against us. To do so is disrespectful to the art, toxic to your soul, and above all, a lie.
God bless and take care.
(If you want to check out Patrick Rothfuss, I suggest beginning with “The Name of the Wind,” the first in a projected series of three novels. Both it and it’s sequel, “The Wise Man’s Fear,” may be found on Amazon.)
Image provided by Anokazue from Deviantart.