Plumber’s Block: A Comparison by Patrick Rothfuss

Posted: August 12, 2014 in Uncategorized
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A few weeks ago my friends and I had the opportunity to go see Patrick Rothfuss, author of The Kingkiller Chronicles, speak at Barnes and Noble in Appleton. I have to admit that after reading his books, watching him on The StoryBoard, and following his blog I am definitely a fan. What’s more, he is just as well spoken and charismatic in person as he appears to be on the internet. Rothfuss, despite his ferocious appearance, is not a loud man. Through the magic of an avid audience of 200 people hanging on his every word he answered questions in his soft voice and ended with a real treat: an excerpt from his upcoming book The Slow Regard of Silent Things.

During his talk one of the audience members asked him about writer’s block. Rothfuss responded that he didn’t believe such a thing existed, despite what the culturally romanticized version of a writer would have you think. I’m going to butcher his words, but I found this to be one of the most poignant moments of his hour long talk and so I desperately want to share because it makes so much sense.

Do bankers have banking block? Do teachers have teacher’s block? Do plumbers have plumbing block? Can a plumber wake up one morning and state, “Oh, the muses have left me and I feel that I cannot plumb until they return”? No, because there’s nothing actually preventing them from doing their job. A broken hand would be detrimental to their ability to work, but no one would ever think of a mental block to be something that would render them incapable of plumbing. And yet, society says it is alright for writers to say they’re blocked because they are somehow connected with this creative flow and if they experience a block that’s as good a pass as any.

Rothfuss continued to explain that writing is not any more mystical than other jobs out there. The theory of the muse moving one’s hand to create is a romantic notion that is anything but true. However, when you go to work are there days when you don’t want to go, but you go anyways because you have to? Yes. That is writer’s block. The writer is trying to avoid writing because the scene they’re composing is difficult, or the rewrites are tedious, or any other number of things. They are not blocked, they are resistant. It happens to everyone, and sometimes you have to say, “I’m going to get this done anyways, even if it’s hard.”

Another gentleman in the audience said he had been doing world building for the past year and wanted to know when the right time to stop world building and start writing is. Rothfuss responded that the time was a year ago. The difference between a poorly written first draft and years of world building to perfection is that the former has a story.

This was probably the biggest kick to the pants my own motivation has ever had.

As I mentioned before, he ended with a reading, and it was beautiful. I’m going to hold off reading it until the Kingkiller Trilogy is finished. I don’t want to confuse myself in the same way I didn’t want to spoil myself with added knowledge of Bast by reading the short story in Rogues.

That’s it, really, other than the book signing. My friends once again invited him to their wedding (one of them has hand sold over 300 copies during his work at a book store), my boyfriend had a chat about Japanese translations, and I pulled up the rear with my literary pin-up calendar so the two of us could have a chat about how he hadn’t anticipated his to come out so scanty- expecting it to be more silhouetted than the detailed drawing it had turned out to be.

Overall, a really wonderful time, a wonderful memory.





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