I’ve heard people say, “Never meet your heroes, you’ll only be disappointed.”
Today I’m glad I didn’t take that advice.
Last night I was privileged to attend a book signing at Changing Hands bookstore in Tempe, Arizona. My emotions were a weird mixture of anxious, excited, and downright giddy at the prospect of meeting my favorite author. Like, my All-Time-Favorite Author. If you read this blog at all, you know who that is.
We called just before they were about to open seating, and found out that his flight had been delayed. So Brandon (my husband, Brandon) and I went in and found reasonably good seats, then we sat and waited. And waited. For about two hours, we sat and waited. Luckily we got seats next to the awesome Justin, who we’d met before, and had a blast chatting with him and other members of the Sanderson Army.
Finally, at about 7:20pm, Mr. Sanderson arrived. He got very little prep time, and yet managed to jump up and start talking like ….. well, like he did it every day. Which, since he’s on tour, he probably does.
He spoke for a few minutes on creativity, and I wish I’d recorded the audio or something because it was a fantastic message. He talked about how we all have creativity built into us, we just use it in different ways. Accountants, writers, engineers, painters, programmers, they all use similar brain muscles, and we ought to treat them that way. Then he answered some questions from the crowd, and read an excerpt from a story he’s finishing called PERFECT STATE, which sounds extremely cool.
However, the best part of the evening, for me, was actually getting to ask him about something that’s been bothering me lately. I’ve spent the last two years working on books for a series I want to do. It seems crazy, because why would I spend so much time working on something when I don’t know whether it will ever be picked up?
A few friends have mentioned to me that I ought to move on to something else for now, and come back to the series later, when I know it’ll pay off. I knew from podcasts/articles/etc. that Sanderson had written thirteen stand-alone novels before ELANTRIS was bought, and it boggled my mind that someone who is now so known for his series could have avoided them for so many years and only written singles.
So, I asked about it. How had he dealt with the series potential I’m certain he saw in his head, while forcing himself to move on to the next project?
His answer shouldn’t have surprised me. He’d purposefully tried to build each novel in such a way that it could be a series, but told himself he’d come back to it later. He said that for him, moving on to the next new thing was exciting. So that’s what he did. He told me to write what made me excited. He even gave an example of an author who had written an entire trilogy before having a publisher, and when the publisher bought her books, they released them in rapid succession, giving a big push for her and pretty much making her career. (Naomi Novik, in case you were wondering.)
All these things were stuff I’d heard him talk about before in various places, but all together it hit home for me. It’s like Sanderson’s 0th Law says: Err on the side of what’s awesome. I can write what I’m excited to write. I don’t have to switch projects unless I want to. For some reason, that realization took a huge weight off my shoulders.
I was shaking like a massage chair when I tried to talk to him, and I’m sure I probably sounded like a dork, but hey. I was in a room FULL of dorks. It was basically a get-out-of-jail-free card.
So to those who say “never meet your heroes,” I say POO. My writing hero is just more awesome than yours.