The Internet and I

Some of you may have noticed that I haven’t posted much since the middle of December. And if  we are email correspondents, you may have not received replies to friendly notes and greetings you sent me over the holidays.

My deadline for my book was December 31, 2010.  I was extremely confident and determined to be on time. I worked consistently on the book every day, and I should have been on time.

 Well, I wasn’t.  I turned the manuscript over to my agent yesterday, 13 days late.  That is NOT a nice thing to do to publishers and editors.  I am abashed.

But, prior to all that, in mid-December I realized that the only possible way to make my deadline was to eliminate distractions and write. Family Christmas, of course, does not fall on the distraction list, but random web activities do.   So, for the most part, I disconnected from the Internet and wrote. And wrote and wrote.

Alleluia!  What a wonderful experience!  Suddenly my output increased. Scenes had more coherency, dialogue flowed as if people were actually talking to one another. I really felt like I was in that world, with those characters.

 That is what happens when I can write in 4 to 6 hour blocks of time, with no little ‘pings’ coming up on my screen.  I’d removed myself to a place where my laptop could not reach the outside world at all, and even though I was writing on a cramped laptop keyboard, the words just kept coming. It took me back to the Megan Lindholm days when writing was something I did in the dark hours of the night, all alone in a very chilly little office with only the stereo softly playing in the background.  I was mostly broke in a rundown old house in a very rural area.  So I started hanging out with a couple of imaginary fellows. When I remember those days, it actually feels as if Fitz were standing over my shoulder commenting on every keystroke, and the Fool was perched up on top of the ancient Maytag washing machine mocking our efforts.  (Oh.  Not every writer has her office in the laundry room? Well, I did.)  When I recall those days, I feel like I am looking at an old fashioned Christmas card.  I would get up from my desk and pad quietly into the kitchen to brew a cup of tea in the dark.  Then I would go back to where the desk lamp and the computer screen were the only illumination. There is a sentimental glow that surrounds that old beat-up army surplus desk, the  Kaypro computer and the black cat sleeping beside it.

This last couple of weeks, I got that back  and I have fallen in love with writing all over again. 

I enjoy chatting with readers.  I love the convenience of email.  But the temptation to dart out onto the Internet when the next sentence just won’t come is often overpowering for me.  Writing anything, a blog, an email, a letter to the editor is always so much easier than finding the next sentence in the story.   Every sentence, every word a writer types is a decision, you know.  And for me it has always been easier by far to dither and procrastinate than to make those decisions, one after another after another.

Well, by now you have guessed it.  This is my ‘Dear John’ letter to the electronic world.  And as so many have said before me, I’ll add, “Please don’t feel bad. It’s not you.  It’s me.”  And it truly is.  I know there are hundreds, probably thousands of writers out there who can blog wittily, update six social networking sites a day, twitter and tweet cheerily throughout the day, write about doing the laundry in a way that raises everyone’s social consciousness and still produce three books a year. 

 But  I am not one of them.

I asked myself, if I had a choice between a twitter every day from my favorite author, or an extra book every year, which would I choose? 

I choose the book.  And I hope that most of you reading this will agree with me that you’d prefer I put my writing time into the books. Let’s face it, my blogs are just not that exciting.

I will not drop off the grid completely.  I will do updates here, when there is real news to share.  I’ll still check my newsgroup at sff.net daily.  It’s rather like reading the funny papers every morning. (Yes, Tedrick, I’m looking at you!)  I will do periodic updates at livejournal, facebook, my space, etc. etc.  But you will see much less of me on your computer screen, and more, I hope, at your bookstore.  And if you send me an email, I will still answer it. Eventually. 

This weekend, I hope to finish the short stories about the goblins that live under a city that is not London.  Just looks a lot like London in my mind.  And the story about Old Paint, the most faithful of station wagons.

I hope I can stick to this New Year’s Resolution.  And best of luck to all of you as you plow into the New Year with fresh resolutions, too.

Robin

42 Responses to The Internet and I

  1. I am not a writer, but a designer, and I know exactly what you mean about the distractions of connectivity.

    As soon as I hear that little “ping” from my email, I have to see what it is.

    I wait eagerly for your books and am glad that you are strong enough to turn off the distractions, if it means more writing.

    Good Luck!

  2. I do hope that this ending (or middle-part, whatever you were writing) will be the best part of the book.

    I have to try it myself. Closing every gate to the real and cybernetic world should be helpful in any work.

    Also, I`m looking forward to your next book. I still have “Dragon Haven” to keep up, thought.

  3. Dear Robin
    Your post was music to my ears(?) or my sadly neglected eyes. In desperation i reread The Dragon Keeper and Dragon Haven these holidays. I saw all your public appearances listed and I was sure you would never make your deadline and I was resigned to continue loving my Robin Hobb paperbacks.
    Congratulations on your decision and my advice is find a family member who has too much time on their hands and get them to take over the blog or the website or the updates.
    We love your books and we love your characters
    Good luck 😛

  4. The Internet can suck you up and eat your face and you won’t even know that 2 hours have passed. I have to disconnect it during my husband’s designated writing time for that very reason.

    I would definitely vote for the extra book in place of regular blog. Good luck with everything!

    Weronika

  5. Recently I reached 100 friends on FB. At that point, due to an agreement I had with a friend, I stepped back from using social networking sites – didn’t even touch it for 3 days. Amazingly, during that time away, I submitted 3 employment applications (vs. 1 the 4 weeks before), finished reading 2 books that I had started weeks ago, and accomplished a lot of other tasks as well that had been hanging out there, neglected due to my social network husbandry.

    I have first-hand knowledge of what you’re going through, and applaud it. You have to go where your heart is! Good luck to you!

  6. I’ve just read The Dragon Keeper and I couldn’t agree more about wanting a new book better than some tweets.
    Thank you for your fantastic work, and I wish you a very good year !

    Lyra
    PS : I’m sorry if I made some mistakes, but I’m french and, as hard as I try, my english is still not perfect !

  7. I sorry to see you go, but I completely understand why. I’m so excited for the new books! Best of luck! 😀

  8. Robin, you’ve always been a consummate professional that obviously has has a passion and dedication to your craft and a great deal of respect for your fans. I’m incredibly happy that you’re ditching the blogosphere, especially if you feel that it impacts your writing quality.

    I personally don’t know many writers that can blog everyday and produce three books per year, however in know one in particular that started blogging everyday and instead produced half a book in a decade which is a creative travesty. You really hit the nail on the head when you said every word is a decision. I hope that you can spread that message with some of your fellow writers in the genre.

    I’m just glad you decided to choose what is often difficult and trying over something that is quick and easy. It tells a great deal about your character, and your appeciation for your fans. I sincerely hope you come to Chicago to promote the book, possibly the State St. Borders?

  9. I agree one hundred percent.
    Internet is distracting for any kind of work, actually. When I’m at the office, and have to really think about my next presentation, I just go into a meeting room, with no connectivity, and really get to thinking and being – finally – productive without emails popping up or the temptation to have a change of thoughts on the Internet.

    Great idea then, Robin, I choose the book a year without hesitation !:D

    Keep it up and good luck 😉

  10. I will be very sorry to not reading your posts here.

    However, I think it was indeed the right decision, and one that might inspire me (and others) too in the same direction 🙂

  11. Considering I am sat here reading that blog entry and the responses at my desk, in work, with a large piece of work needing finishing – I can completely relate!

    My regret is not giving feedback on here sooner, as your work bridged the gap between boy and adult fantasy reader and for that I can’t offer enough thanks.

    A very small tale from my reading of your work. I remember reading Assassin Apprentice in the bath. I remember reading Royal Assasin in the back of the car. I remember reading Assassins Quest on a scorching hot day with the curtains closed and on my bed.

    Two, three, four times I re-read that trilogy. And one day looking on Amazon I noticed a new hardback, Fools Errand, in the options – but with no projected date of availability. Right then and there I placed the order and life took over at a fast pace, with many things a teenage boy enjoys other than reading taking priority.

    It was at University when I felt as if life had been flipped upsidedown and was utterly adrift that a very large package in familiar cardboard from Amazon greeted me one morning in the post-room.

    That was such, such a good moment – opening that parcel to see that book. It reminded me who I had been and allowed me to connect the dots.

    It’s amazing how a piece of writing can bridge those gaps when you’re adrift.

    So thanks Robin, good luck with the new work approach.

  12. “Every sentence, every word a writer types is a decision”
    …I really love yours decisions 😛

    Thank you so much Robin for every words, for every lines you have written.
    So, Fitz and The Fool were near you, when you were writing… That’s the reason why they are so real now for many people all around the world.

    I wish you happy time writing among your characters.
    I wish you could resist the Internet Devil and fulfill your wishes for this year :mrgreen: !
    I wish you health and happiness.
    Please take care of you !

    (I’m french, and my english is really bad 😳 Sorry ! )

  13. Dear Robin,
    I’m glad, you decided pro your books and against blogs. Also far too late I found this page, but I’m not a blogger, facebooker or so – I just love your books and wanted to tell you.
    Take care, stay healthy, let your creativity flow and keep on writing such wonderful books. A new “Robin Hobb” ist always a bit of a miracle to me 😀
    All the best for you !

  14. Oh, please no! George already takes so much flak!
    Different writers have different ways of writing. I actually envy George Martin’s ability to balance his real life with his writing life.
    If I have trouble dealing with Internet distractions, I can’t imagine what it’s like to have an HBO production seeping into your life and penetrating every aspect of it!
    I count George Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire as my absolutely favorite ongoing work. Like thousands of other readers, I really want that next installment. But I also want it done RIGHT, not FAST.
    So, while I am eager to see it, I am also willing for it to finish simmering so he can serve it to perfection!

    Robin

  15. Towards the end of last year i closed down all forms of internet contact but my email and forced myself to sit back and relax.
    It was truly refreshing to not have to worry about replying niceties to people and i found that i could make no more excuses for why i had no time to do things more important, or more enjoyable.
    I reread all nine books from Assassin’s Apprentice to Fool’s Fate. Your writing is simply amazing. When i first read those books i was around 14 years old, so rereading it brought me back to those times when i would sit in the middle of the night close to my desklamp and read until i heard my Mum getting up to wake me for school. The Fool and Fitz feel real to me. They are old friends 🙂

    Okay i’ve written too much i think 😛 Good luck with your writing! I’m glad you were able to find your love for it again and i look forward to the future books.

  16. Hello and Goodbye Robin,
    I am looking forward to reading more of your works. With the e-mail and blog distraction, I can understand why you were delayed and unable to make your deadline. I am certain that your absence from the world of the internet will only make your subsequent books even higher quality than ever.
    Glad to hear that you have returned to your first love.
    Oh, and leave bats alone or get your damn rabies shots. Please.
    Dianne

  17. Robin, I love you and I love your books. I always have. And I fully agreed with you in about George in 2007. And 2008. And 2009. It’s now 2011. Any book is better than none, especially one that was supposedly “half done” in 2004 when the first half (Feast for Crows) was released. What you have written here in context of the Not-A-Blog’s endless distractions in the interim I suspect is precisely the reason why the book is five plus years late. I wish he would follow your lead. Enough is enough. Finish the book George.

  18. How long would you estimate before the publishers will announce the details of the book (i.e. title, release date, etc.)?

  19. 😛
    Nice to meet you Ms. Hobb,
    I learned of you and found your website via a board dedicated to ruminating about GRRM’s deadline failings. Great “final” post, and I just ordered your farseer trilogy in the hopes that it will help me get through until ASIOF #5 is published.

  20. “Oh, please no! George already takes so much flak!”

    –> Honestly Robin, most of the criticism he takes is deserved based on the unprofessional behavior he exhibits on his blog.

    “Different writers have different ways of writing. I actually envy George Martin’s ability to balance his real life with his writing life.”

    –> George wrote the first three books in a 4 year stretch, and he’s published exactly half of a book in the past decade. I wouldn’t exactly call that balance.

    “If I have trouble dealing with Internet distractions, I can’t imagine what it’s like to have an HBO production seeping into your life and penetrating every aspect of it!”

    –> I agree this much be a huge investment of his time, but it’s hard to take him seriously as a professional when he claims that working on A Dance with Dragons is his alleged number one priority.

    “I count George Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire as my absolutely favorite ongoing work. Like thousands of other readers, I really want that next installment.”

    –> Besides your next Rain Wilds novel and Lynch’s ‘Republic of Thieves’, there isn’t a single other book I’m looking forward to either.

    “But I also want it done RIGHT, not FAST. So, while I am eager to see it, I am also willing for it to finish simmering so he can serve it to perfection!”

    –> This is assumption is based on the fallacy that George taking more time on the novel will actually make it better. As described above, it took George 4 years to write 3 of the best fantasy novels ever written, while the last installment, A Feast for Crows, marked a significant decline in the series and it took him 5 years to write. I’m cautiously optimistic that Dance will return to the former glory of the earlier installments.

    ~Paul

  21. You were the first person I knew to have a word processor. Computer technology has certainly changed our lives!

    I’m listening to an audio (audible.com) version of Dragon Haven. I’m glad you are working on another story, as I look forward to each one.

    Mary Ellen

  22. Hi Robin,

    I just discovered this site when looking for new books of yours a week ago. I started with your books as a teenager 10 years ago and was completely engrossed in your stories. Now I have just finished The Dragon Keeper on my eReader, and I couldn’t stop reading (as always)! In fact, the book made me procrastinate a lot this week instead of doing my master thesis ;-). You are still my absolute favourite writer – your style of writing has a flow that I seldom see, and as a reader you never know how the stories are going to end. You manage to keep interest and never be predictable – I love it! Finishing your books always leaves me sad that they are over, so I would definitely choose one more book per year than blogging if you ask me. Social networks play a role today, but they can never make up for good stories keeping me awake late at night reading. So, stick to who you are and how you write best, cause your readers will always be there waiting in the store for the next book.
    Tonight I will with eagerness dive into Dragon Haven!

    Best wishes from one of your long-time devoted readers,
    Sara

  23. Robin,
    I truly look forward to the new book, and I couldn’t agree more on your decision.

    I fell in love with the Realm of the Elderlings less than a year ago and I’ve just finished reading Dragon Haven.
    This may sound very cliché, but your books have changed me. It feels as if I Fitz, The Fool, Althea and all the others became friends in some sort of way. Surely these books have a very special place in my bookcase!

    I just want to say, thank you, and good luck with your writing.

    Greets from The Netherlands.

    Vincent Viceroy Kerlen

  24. As I mentioned before, please don’t send this to George RR Martin. I think he takes enough flack as it is.

    I may follow up on some thoughts about this the next time I make an entry here.

    Robin

  25. Mary Ellen! How many years has it been? And that is ridiculous, considering that I think you are just across the Narrows from me? Right?

    We need to have coffee and catch up on the last 15 years or so!

  26. It will be a while before all that is set in stone. We are still hammering on the title, to get it right. And there will be different publication dates in the US and UK. As soon as I know, I will post details here.

    In the meanwhile, the LIndholm/Hobb story collection, The Inheritance, should be out pretty soon. For the UK edition, look for the book in stores in late March in the UK and early April in Australia. (I hope to be in Australia then, too!)
    And the US edition will be available in May.

    Robin

  27. Fair enough, Robin,

    Honestly if it wasn’t for George, I probably wouldn’t have found your writing.

    Thanks for providing a worthy escape from an often mundane life as an auditor, and I hope you make it to a book signing in Chicago soon.

    Take care,

    Paul

  28. I thouht this over and this reminds me of something you wrote that went “”Blog. Blog. Blog. Blog. Say it aloud. Doesn’t it sound like the slow drip of creative blood onto the uncaring Internet?” ” an article that gripped me by the guts as a blog-keeper-wishing-but-never-to-be-a-full-fledged-writer.
    http://minutepapillon8.canalblog.com/archives/2009/07/14/14391403.html
    Unfortunaltely that article has been removed from your website.
    My consolation is that if I “WRITE” sometimes it is because I blog. We each have to find our own scale and place our happiness in words where it’s best suited, for some a blog is just the perfect place, but thank god there are others willing to put their lives into grander projects for the delight of many and I do thank you for that!

  29. Hello Robin, (I hope it is OK if I call you that)

    Long time reader, first time poster. I love your work. You are in my favorite top five of the moment. Although that moment has lasted since I first read Assassin’s Apprentice a few years ago.

    Your endorsement of “Name of the Wind” also inspired me to read that beautiful book as well so thank you for that.

    I really wish I could talk to you. I am working on my own novel that is heavily inspired by you.

    No its not fan fic or anything else to do with your writing. It is my own creation (I hope so anyway) that I am having a few struggles with. I am trying to write it in a similar style to what you accomplished with the Farseer Trilogy. And I am trying to do something original with that format whether anyone ever reads it or not. And if no one does at least I will be able to say I wrote it and be damned with what happens after.

    I know you are busy and you most likely do not have the time. But if you find such an opportunity I would really appreciate any words of advice you could give. Any words of wisdom regarding the first person memoir style you used in writing about Fitz.

    Happy belated New Year! I am glad to see you are doing well and enjoying your craft so much.

  30. Dear Robin,

    I just finished all the books from the Assasins Apprentice till The Tawny Man Trilogy and.. It really touched me!

    I am wondering and also hoping if you ever in the future had planned to continue this story. I was really curious what the fool was going to do after he left. Where did he come from? and if he ever finds out what he must do now. The ending also feld so open 😛

    Take care and greetings from the Netherlands.

  31. Robin
    If I had a choice between a twitter every day from my favorite author, or an extra book every year, I’d go the book every time!
    I think it’s great news that you are enjoying your writing more than ever. I am all too familiar with how distracting the internet can be, and I admire you for getting your writing done with all that going on!

  32. Oh dear!

    I’m totally appalled that I didn’t even think of wishing you a happy new year, you wouldn’t believe that I did start the year “with you” by reading “Blue boots” and then I got swallowed head to toe by life and job.

    Very sorry about that and I hope you did have a splendid holiday time and a wonderful new year (actually mine started with catching the flu for the second time in less than 2 months).

    Actually, my job takes up all my time, 9h of work, 2 (and a half-ish) of commuting, so I honestly have dropped Internet a bit too.
    Mind you, I’ve already finished reading a book and am half into another so that’s a good thing right?

    I’d choose the book too. 😉
    And until reading you (or seeing you, not sure yet if I’ll be going to the Imaginales yet or not) I’m wishing you all the best!!

    Nadine

  33. I agree with Robin, George RR Martin is a great writer with his own style. to be quite honest one of the main reasons i love his books is because they are so vivid and real like him. Everyone works at thier own pace. Although we all are eagerly awaiting his books, we know it’s going to be great when it finally comes. So cut him some slack, making him feel bad isn’t going to bring dance with dragons come faster, after 5+ yrs, i think we now know that, that sort of pressure doesn’t work on him.

    On a lighter note, YEAH!!!! i’m soo happy your releasing new books, i was starting to get withdrawals ymtoms from lack of Hobb hehe!!