Rothfuss, Writer’s Block & The Myth of the Author

The well known and impressively bearded fantasy author Patrick Rothfuss (best known for his Kingkiller series) once said, “-people talk about writer’s block all the time, as if it were real. And it’s simply not, the truth is, it is simply hard to write sometimes. The same as any other professional or creative endeavor. But if a plumber called in and said ‘Oh, Gregory! My muse does not speak to me today. I fear I cannot plumb,’ you’d be like ‘Well, we’ve got a contract.’”

He further elaborates, “You say ‘writer’s block’ and people are like ‘Oh, I’m sorry.’ It’s like you’ve just said ‘I have meningitis.’ It’s like, ‘Oh fuck, writer’s block, did you get some amoxycilin for that?’ It’s not a thing. It’s not a thing. But here’s the thing. Here IS the thing,” Rothfuss said. “You write with your head. You could break your leg and then still write. But if, say, your dog has fucking died, that’s in your head. If your relationship is a mess. If you have a mood disorder (which, statistically, you’re six to ten times more likely to have if you’re a writer). If you have either diagnosed or undiagnosed depression, or any of the myriad host of things that can legit go chemically wrong in your brain. Or if it’s just your life is shitty or your dad is sick, or like, maybe the Republic is crumbling and there’s an autocrat in power.”

“-the reason I push back against the myth of the author, is if we keep going ‘Oh, you’re a magical unicorn and you have a magical unicorn disease called writer’s block,’ it keeps people from correctly identifying what might really be going in their lives, in their minds or, honestly, in the world, that’s affecting their ability to produce art,” Rothfuss concluded, “I don’t think writers’ block exists. I think undiagnosed mood disorder exists.” (This note rings with the personal, as Rothfuss himself has struggled with mental illness).

We would concur with Mr. Rothfuss’ general position (and his extremely eloquent novel, The Name of the Wind, well attests to his considerable prowess in fiction). We have found that, regardless of whether or not we hear the glorious silken voices of the muses, in so far as we persist, in so far as we are steeled of purpose and mind, the words come all the same. We give them no quarter, allow them no shade, no harbourage whatsoever; we force them out and imperiously direct them to the page. We would, however, note one important exception taken with Rothfuss’ excellent analysis, namely, his contention with the myth of the author. Now when he says, the myth of the author, Rothfuss does not mean that authors do not literally exist, that they are merely myths, but rather that the author is no more elevated than the ironmonger or the electrician, the fishwife or the bag-handler. This rings of falsity, for it is not the baggage handler or the chimney sweep who echoes throughout time and who can, if sufficient in their powers, change the entire fabric of a town, nation or empire. Which is not, of course, to denigrate the laudable, indeed indispensable, work of those previously mentioned professions, but rather to say that when fiction is bad it is near worthless, but when grand, it is something which can scarcely be matched, much less surpassed, by any other field of endeavor; for it is fiction, myth, that has guided and girded the whole ambit of the world and without it purpose-as-such itself should like as not melt into the air.