Even George R. R. Martin Gets Writer's Block

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Author George R. R. Martin
Author George R. R. Martin
Image Credit: www.theonering.net

If you haven't heard about Game of Thrones, you've been living under a rock. But likely, if you've found this blog, you have heard of Game of Thrones and George R. R. Martin. Maybe even a few of you have followed George R. R. Martin's blog, like I have from time to time. Most recently he announced that The Winds of Winter isn't finished and went on to talk about the difficulty he's had meeting this particular deadline and that the show will finally catch up to the books.

I don't know why this explanation from George R. R. Martin broke my heart so much. I think it's because I've been where he is for quite some time; thankfully never with pressure from that many fans, editors, publishers, and HBO to top it all off. But it's even more heart breaking for me because I don't have the amount of finished novels behind me that he has.

Here's part of George R. R. Martin's explanation:

Look, I have always had problems with deadlines. For whatever reason, I don't respond well to them. Back in November, when I returned to Northwestern to accept my Alumni Award, I told the Medill students that was why I started writing fiction instead of getting a job on a newspaper. I knew even then that daily deadlines would kill me. That was a joke, of course... but there was truth in it too. I wrote my first novel, DYING OF THE LIGHT, without a contract and without a deadline. No one even knew I was writing a novel until I sent the completed book to Kirby to sell. I wrote FEVRE DREAM the same way. I wrote THE ARMAGEDDON RAG the same way. No contracts, no deadlines, no one waiting. Write at my own pace and deliver when I'm done. That's really how I am most comfortable, even now.

But I won't make excuses. There are no excuses. No one else is to blame. Not my editors and publishers, not HBO, not David & Dan. It's on me. I tried, and I am still trying. I worked on the book a couple of days ago, revising a Theon chapter and adding some new material, and I will writing on it again tomorrow. But no, I can't tell you when it will be done, or when it will be published. Best guess, based on our previous conversations, is that Bantam (and presumably my British publisher as well) can have the hardcover out within three months of delivery, if their schedules permit. But when delivery will be, I can't say. I am not going to set another deadline for myself to trip over. The deadlines just stress me out.

Deadlines stress me out. Stress stresses me out. Pressure from people or places stress me out. So I get it. (As I've said before, anxious people shouldn't write novels.) Martin goes on to say he's months away from finishing, if the writing goes well.

I am months away still... and that's if the writing goes well. (Sometimes it does. Sometimes it doesn't.) Chapters still to write, of course... but also rewriting. I always do a lot of rewriting, sometimes just polishing, sometimes pretty major restructures.

I love that he does that. He does what almost no other novelist does: admits that writing (and rewriting) is sometimes no fun and doesn't go well. This is heartbreaking--but also encouraging. It tells us not to quit writing, not to give into the temptation to believe that we'll never get that novel finished, and to keep plodding away, pushing forward.

Write on, dear friends.

Lisa Kerr is a California based writer whose work has been published in (the late) Milk Sugar, the Northridge Review, and the New York magazine among others. You can find out more about her on her website and connect with her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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