Two Things I’ve Learned From Fantasy Authors

If you’re having creative problems, I feel bad for you, son.
I’ve got 99 problems, but “a bitter ex-fan community” ain’t one.
– Jay-Z, lamely paraphrased

I’m not a huge fan of the fantasy genre, but these two things have come to my attention over the past day or so, both very applicable not only to fantasy writing, but any kind of creative endeavor.

1. After reading this New Yorker piece on fantasy author George R. R. Martin (not to be confused with Beatles producer George “No Middle Initials, Please” Martin), I’m confused.

Is it better to be a relative unknown in your chosen creative field, or to have a fan base that loves your work so much you become paralyzed in indecision trying to give them more?

I’ve always assumed that “more fans=better,” but if the weight of outside expectation keeps you waffling so long that some very vocal fans start to take the waiting personally, maybe there’s something to be said for obscurity. Writer’s block is hard enough without people who used to respect you obsessively mocking you for your unfinished work.

2. On the other end of the spectrum, there’s another fantasy author, Glen Cook, whose first few novels were written while he worked on an assembly line for GM. Not in his spare time after work, but during the 5 minute breaks he’d have throughout his shift.

The next time I complain about not having enough time to create while working all day in front of a keyboard and monitor, I want to remember that.