For example: “When you sign something, always make sure you get a copy.”
And, of course, as I’ve quoted before: “There is only one rule in writing. Write well.”
But recently I’ve realized that I learned something else important — and this one I learned from his example, not from anything he said.
I thought of it when I read this article from WIRED magazine, and then saw a little of the online aftermath: “Brandon Sanderson Is Your God“
The article is basically about the fact that Brandon Sanderson is 1) an enormously successful fantasy author, 2) whose writing nobody ever writes about, 3) who is, for some reason, nowhere near as well known to the general public as J. R. R. Tolkien, J. K. Rowling, or George R. R. Martin (all also fantasy writers), 4) a Mormon. (Actually, the article specifically classifies him with the writers who are “weirdo Mormons,” as opposed to the writers who are regular Mormons, and there’s no indication of why, or even why the distinction is being made. For me, that’s the most annoying part of the article.)
Anyway, the general Sanderson-loving public took this article (not totally without reason) as an attack on Sanderson, and on them, so of course everybody immediately made YouTube videos about it, and I’m sure they posted various things on social media and so on.
This made me think of two things.
(But first, a disclaimer: I’ve never read anything by Brandon Sanderson. I don’t have a dog in this race, or whatever the cliche is.)
1) I like various things. I’ve never particularly cared what anybody else thinks of the things I enjoy. I think I learned that from my father’s example. Amazon is always trying to get me to join Goodreads to find out what my friends are reading, and so they can see what I’m reading. Why would I care?
There are no guilty pleasures (well, unless your hobby is clubbing baby seals or something like that). Sometimes people are offended if I say that I prefer the Resident Evil movies to Star Wars or Marvel or Star Trek, but that’s fine.
(Increasingly, of course, a major point of attraction is that the Resident Evil series was six movies and then it ENDED.)
2) Also, another thing about the WIRED article is that the writer seems puzzled by the fact that Sanderson’s sentences and words are very ordinary (which even Sanderson admits), but people read his work anyway.
My father had a friend who was in the theater world, and he said that theater people all knew that Franchot Tone was a better actor than Cary Grant (I don’t know what led up to this discussion). My father’s response, as he reported it to me, was that your audience is the public (“civilians,” as a former bass player of mine always referred to them), not people in the industry.
Now, for myself, I do care about words and sentences (and commas, and parentheses, and dashes, and commas). But I write, so it makes sense for me to care. And the writer of the WIRED piece is also, by definition, a writer. But why does it take until the end of the piece for him to realize all this doesn’t apply in the same way to civilians?