‘Kingkiller Chronicle’ Author Patrick Rothfuss Doesn’t Believe in Writer’s Block

Kingkiller Chronicle (The Name of the Wind, The Wise Man’s Fear) author Patrick Rothfuss appeared on the latest episode of The Great Big Beautiful Podcast to talk about his Geeks Doing Good fundraiser, Worldbuilders charity work and T.S. Eliot’s penis. It’s a fun conversation, but there’s one section in particular sure to be of interest to every reader awaiting Kvothe’s further adventures in Book 3 of his Kingkiller Chronicle series: Rothfuss’ stance on writer’s block.

In response to a question from host Jamie Green about writers commiserating over the difficulties of writing, Rothfuss described his desire to de-romanticize what he calls “the myth of the author,” described as “the cultural belief that a writer is a conduit to the divine. That the muse speaks to us and we are inspired to blah blah blah.”

“I mean, it’s a great story,” Rothfuss said. “But I don’t think it’s healthy for people consuming the art or producing the art to buy into that particular thing.”

Patrick-rothfuss-2014-kyle-cassidy "Kingkiller Chronicle" author Patrick Rothfuss. Kyle Cassidy / CC BY-SA 3.0

Citing Confucianism and cognitive behavioral therapy, Rothfuss underscored the need for writers and readers to put the work in a more universal, human context. “For example, people talk about writer’s block all the time, as if it were real. And it’s simply not,” Rothfuss said.

“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.’”

At first blush, it may sound as if Rothfuss is telling writers to suck it up, walk it off, stop whining, but his explanation comes around to an unexpected reveal: writer’s block obscures real problems.

“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.”

Rothfuss’ disbelief in writer’s block doesn’t mean writers have no right to their creative struggle, but instead conceptually obscures human-level problems under a romantic veneer. “Nobody would expect you to make beautiful jewelry if your hand had been caught in a hydraulic press,” Rothfuss adds.

“So 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 said. “I don’t think writers’ block exists. I think undiagnosed mood disorder exists.”

Rothfuss has previously discussed his own mental health struggle, particularly under the weight of sudden fame and the concomitant pressure to produce. Rather than a mythical writer’s malady, Rothfuss targeted the material and psychological challenges of being a person.

Kingkiller Chronicle Book 3, tentatively titled The Doors of Stone, is in the works, with a release date yet to be announced.

A movie adaptation of the series is also underway, executive produced by Lin-Manuel Miranda (Moana, The Sopranos). Former Lionsgate executive Patrick Wachsberger recently told Deadline there will be “a minimum of three” and “as many as six” Kingkiller Chronicle movies.

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