Pat, Diogenes, and Beards.

I’m in the midst of trying to get caught up on some work, but I wanted to briefly mention something I just ran into over at Pat Rothfuss’s blog–he’s posted an interview he did with the Liquid Weird podcast about writing, gaming, and philosophy (specifically Diogenes–he can say what he likes, but I think he just digs the beard), and he’s got some interesting things to say about the writing field, especially different avenues of promotion. He suggests that a lot of the ancillary stuff many modern writers do (podcasting, blogging, excessive con-going (okay, it might not be a word as such, but I’m throwing it out into the lexicon anyway)) is really just an attempt to “game the system,” and is taking them “sideways” from their ultimate goal, which of course is to see their work in print and become reasonably successful authors. Pat argues that if you spend the bulk of your time being a good podcaster, blogger, or even networker, you might become very good at any of those things…but you won’t be any better as a writer, which is really the point.

In fairness, of course, I only know of this interview because it showed up on Pat’s blog–in the form of a podcast–so the frame of his answer might seem a bit ironic. But I think his basic premise is correct: many authors have gotten sidetracked in trying to make themselves into brand names without basing their reputations on the work they write, and they end up making themselves seem more like vaguely off-putting used car salesmen (no, not the good and honest ones!) than serious writers worthy of attention.

My solution to this problem? Focus on writing, allocate and stick to reasonable amounts of time spent on blogging and convention-going, and delegate the hell out of the rest. I think blogging is valuable, not just so I can garner some Internet audience but because it allows me to have conversations with people I might not otherwise encounter–but I don’t, and can’t, blog for hours every day and still do the work which needs to be done. And I love going to conventions–I enjoy reading from my work, speaking to readers and other authors, and the networking is important–but I can’t go to them every weekend, or indeed every month. Four or five a year is reasonable; twenty or thirty….not so much, at least for me. And for the other things–for example, book-to-game conversions–I find the best people I can and let them handle the heavy lifting, both because they’re better at it than I would be and because the best thing I can do, even for future collaborations, is write even better work.

The bottom line? In my professional life I’m a writer, teacher, and musician, and that’s enough for any one person to handle; I’m going to do everything I can to keep my eyes on that “prize” going forward. And since I already have a beard, I guess I’ve already got that part of the Diogenes doctrine down.