Tell Your Fears to Go Eat Mud. Play BTFI.

Has the increased level of attention in the years since the show came on made you feel like more of a perfectionist in your writing? Is it more challenging to write now?
Yes! And that doesn’t necessarily just revolve around the show. Although the show may, indeed, be part of it. The books have been enormously successful. I think I’m now in 47 languages, which is pretty astonishing. My earlier work was always translated but, boy I’m being translated now into languages I’ve never heard of, in every corner of the globe. The books have been nominated for many major awards and they get prominent reviews. That’s great, but it also brings with it a certain pressure. Instead of just writing a story, there’s this little guy in the back of my mind saying: “No, it has to be great! It has to be great! You’re writing one of the great fantasies of all time! Is that sentence great? Is this decision great?” When I started in 1991, I was just trying to write the best story I could. I didn’t think this will be a landmark thing for all time. The fact that this has gotten all this favorable attention and praise, wonderful reviews, award nominations, it does increase the pressure to do it again.
Martin, George R. R. “George R. R. Martin on the One Game of Thrones Change He ‘Argued Against’.” Interview by Daniel D’Addario. Time Magazine Online

*cue Queen song*

As I painfully typed my first few minutes of fiction this morning, I thought of poor George. I know, I know. Who has any pity left for a man sitting atop a mountain of cash built on a multimillion-dollar brand?

But for just a moment, try to imagine the pressure he talks about here. I feel a weight every time I begin writing, hoping that I get things right. If I had George’s level of obligations to an already tempestuous fan base, I’m pretty sure I’d crack right in half. Literally. Somehow defying everything we know about reality, my body was just split in two.

This brought me two very conflicting thoughts: Why am I working so hard to create something that would exponentially increase the pressure on my writing? And the much more logical second thought; Wow, you really think you’re going to create something as wildly successful as George? Better go back and read that post on humility and hubris

I realized I carry on because the possibility of making a living while doing what I love really exists. It’s tangible. People do it every day. They all got there in different ways, but I’ll tell you one thing they didn’t do — stop writing.

If George were to ask me for advice, because, you know, he’s always seeking advice from writers still seeking a clue, I’d tell him to start practicing what Benjamin and Rosamund Zander refer to as “playing BTFI (Beyond The F*** It).”

“…our universe is alive with sparks. We have at our fingertips an infinite capacity’ to light a spark of possibility’. Passion, rather than fear, is the igniting force. Abundance, rather than scarcity, is the context.
The Art of Possibility by Benjamin and Rosamund Zander,

Maybe my advice is just what he needs. The best advice, I’ve found, comes from those removed from our situation and limited viewpoint. From those who are able to see things with a more objective eye.

BTFI doesn’t come easy, but as I work on practicing it every day, I find it kicks in after a few minutes of writing. And when I look back at the words I’ve written, I realize that they’re not half as bad as I thought they would be, because I told all of those expectations, all of those imaginary, lingering faces of disapproval, to go eat mud.


*Photo courtesy of Max Pixel

Originally published at on July 14, 2017.