There’s a spot on my bookshelf where George R.R. Martin’s latest ASOIAF masterpiece is supposed to go. It sits vacant, as it has for many years. I don’t hold out hope of filling it soon.
I think George R.R. Martin is lying to his fans.
The idea first struck me a few weeks ago, when I read the fantasy author’s latest excuse for why he still(!) hasn’t released The Winds of Winter.
Writer's block isn't to blame here; it's distraction. In recent years, all of the work I've been doing creates problems because it creates distraction. Because the books and the show are so popular I have interviews to do constantly. I have travel plans constantly. It's like suddenly I get invited to travel to South Africa or Dubai, and who's passing up a free trip to Dubai?
Sounds great in theory, but on behalf of novelists everywhere, I’m calling bullshit. Do I doubt that he’s busy? Not at all. The man likely has a schedule that would rival the President’s. And while I certainly can’t fault him for jumping on a free trip to Dubai, I can fault him for not owning up to what’s really going on.
This is writer's block.
Clear as day.
Why he continues to insist otherwise is baffling. (C’mon, George! The first step is to admit you’ve got a problem!)
Lash out if you will, but first consider the evidence:
Despite all the “distractions,” George R.R. Martin has found plenty of time to write other things. He’s managed to craft multiple Wild Cards books (six in the past two years!), a couple of novellas, and five Game of Thrones TV scripts.
Granted, Wild Cards is an anthology, and Martin only writes a portion of it, but he co-edits the entire thing, and if you think editing is a quick and easy job, you’re sorely mistaken. Editing a manuscript requires intense focus and concentration. It’s not the kind of task you could complete during breaks at Comic Con, or on an airplane to Dubai.
So why is George R.R. Martin insisting that we’d all be holding Winds of Winter in our greedy little hands if it wasn’t for that darn busy schedule of his?
As a fellow (albeit, dramatically less successful) novelist I want to weigh in: Because admitting to writers block is like admitting that you’ve choked, that you’ve cracked under the pressure. That the eyes of the world were watching and you stepped up to the plate and managed to do the only thing worse than striking out: you left the batter's box with only two strikes.
Of course nobody wants to fail. That’s a given. But failing on an epic, all-eyes-are-watching level? That’s what George R.R. Martin is facing.
You know that old adage, the book was better? By stalling out for so long on The Winds of Winter, George R.R. Martin may actually find himself in that uncharted territory of having people proclaim: “The book was worse.”
And what writer would want to be the trailblazer for that?!
It’s enough to make even the most cocksure novelist choose the easy way out: shut down the computer and bury your head in the sand.
Writers are nothing if not neurotic. We are driven by overactive imaginations and worse case scenarios. We catastrophize and we worry and we fear. How else do you think we create these vivid, bizarre worlds out of thin air?
People often assume that writers block occurs because an author has run out of ideas, but nothing could be further from the truth. If anything, we writers suffer from an abundance of ideas – the hard part is figuring out which one to reign in and pursue.
It’s the fear that shuts us down. And despite his protestations, I wholeheartedly believe that’s what has occurred with The Winds of Winter. George R.R. Martin isn’t lying to his fans so much as he’s lying to himself.
Unless he takes a hard look at what’s really going on, he’ll become the next Robert Jordan. Even Cersei Lannister couldn’t dream up a fate worse than that.