Procrastinators, boss-havers, degenerate undergraduates, lend me your ears. Have you ever added surplus spaces on an essay to meet a minimum page requirement? Sneakily increased the font size on periods to pad your page count? Claimed to be working toward a deadline when you most definitely, assuredly were not?
If this sounds like you, then come sit by George R.R. Martin. Martin, you may remember, is suffering from the most public case of writer’s block in human history. He’s been writing The Winds of Winter, the highly-anticipated penultimate volume in his Game of Thrones series, since at least 2010—and now, as if to make up for over a decade of missed deadlines, he’s speaking out on how the book is worth the wait (funny, I think I told my British Lit professor the same thing when I needed an extension). “The Winds of Winter is going to be a big book,” he wrote on his blog. “The way it is going, it could be bigger than A Storm of Swords or A Dance With Dragons, the longest books in the series to date. I do usually cut and trim once I finish, but I need to finish first.”
About that. Just how did Martin dig himself into this hole? Allow me to take you back in time, dear reader, on a Scrooge-esque journey to the ghosts of deadlines past. Our story begins in 2010, when Martin gleefully announced on his blog that four chapters of The Winds of Winter were complete. Then, in 2011, the first rumbles of trouble: in an interview with Entertainment Weekly, he declined to give a timeline on when fans could expect the sixth book, saying, “There’s an element of fans who don’t seem to realize I’m making estimates. I’ve repeatedly been guilty of an excess of optimism.” How young we were in 2011! How naive!
In 2012, speaking with the Spanish blog Adria’s News, Martin claimed that The Winds of Winter would arrive in 2014, though he did couch that promise in, “I am really bad for predictions” (just wait, this is going to become a theme). Then, after 2014 came and went with no Winds of Winter, Martin’s publisher poured cold water over fans’ heads. “I have no information on likely delivery,” Jane Johnson of HarperCollins told The Guardian. “These are increasingly complex books and require immense amounts of concentration to write. Fans really ought to appreciate that the length of these monsters is equivalent to two or three novels by other writers.” You hear that, everyone? We should just be grateful and stop holding the guy accountable.
In March 2015, Martin told Access, “I still have a lot of pages to write, but I also have a lot of pages that are already written.” Spoken like a true college student. Then, a month later, he told Entertainment Weekly that he hoped to release the book in spring 2016 to coincide with the sixth season of HBO’s Game of Thrones, saying, “Maybe I’m being overly optimistic about how quickly I can finish. But I canceled two convention appearances, I’m turning down a lot more interviews—anything I can do to clear my decks and get this done.” But no sooner did 2016 arrive than he said in January of that year, “I am not going to set another deadline for myself to trip over. The deadlines just stress me out.” I’m going to try that one on my editor next time. Fans were alarmed in September 2016 when Amazon France listed The Winds of Winter with a March 2017 release date, but according to HarperCollins, it was a big ol’ nothingburger.
Cut to January 2017, when Martin insisted that this was definitely going to be his year: “I think it will be out this year. (But hey, I thought the same thing last year),” he wrote on his blog. But then, he kept toying with fans, writing, “I am still working on it, I am still months away (how many? good question), I still have good days and bad days, and that’s all I care to say… I do think you will have a Westeros book from me in 2018… and who knows, maybe two. A boy can dream…” How about you finish one book, sir, and then we’ll talk about two?
In June 2018, it was announced that HBO had ordered a pilot for the first of many Game of Thrones spin-offs, and that Martin was co-writing the pilot. Fans eagerly awaiting his next book were understandably concerned, so he took to his trusty blog to reassure them: “Work on Winds of Winter continues, and remains my top priority,” Martin wrote. “It is ridiculous to think otherwise.” Ridiculous!
Then, 2020 brought the perverse answer to fans’ prayers: the pandemic forced everyone into isolation, and finally, Martin was trapped at home with nothing to do but write. “If nothing else, the enforced isolation has helped me write,” he commented on his blog. “I am spending long hours every day on The Winds of Winter, and making steady progress. I finished a new chapter yesterday, another one three days ago, another one the previous week. But no, this does not mean that the book will be finished tomorrow or published next week. It’s going to be a huge book, and I still have a long way to go.”
Martin wasn’t kidding when he said he had a long way to go. In June 2021, he seemed downright incensed at the thought of being held accountable to all his missed deadlines, writing on his blog, “I will make no predictions on when I will finish. Every time I do, assholes on the internet take that as a ‘promise’, and then wait eagerly to crucify me when I miss the deadline. All I will say is that I am hopeful.”
This brings us back to the present day, with Martin insisting that his super long, super great, very close to finished book is worth all the missed deadlines. We’re hopeful too, even though it seems that there’s no end to Martin’s agony in sight. Hey, friend, have you heard of Procrastinators Anonymous? Maybe they can help.
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