Wednesday, November 9, 2022

Brandon Sanderson: A Story of Faith

The full interview, “Why I Believe with Brandon Sanderson”, can be found on Facebook…

Earlier this week, the acclaimed fifteen-time New York Times Bestselling author of epic fantasy, Brandon Sanderson, sat down to discuss and answer questions based on his faith and his books. I think this resulted in a deeply insightful and interesting interview, and not just for aspiring writers: he taught lessons for life. What do we do when we can’t seem to move forward? Where should we draw inspiration from? Should we follow the crowd, or be ourselves? How do we deal with uncertainty? Why do you believe? These are all questions that speak to the soul, and what this author has to say is so much deeper than just good writing advice.

There are three aspects of his story that stand out, and the first was the fact that it took him a great while before he discovered writing. He joked how a lot of his competition seems to have had typewriters installed in the womb so they could get a head start. Christopher Paolini comes to mind quite quickly, whose best-selling book Eragon was published at age 18 after only starting writing it at age 15. Sanderson, by contrast, didn’t encounter reading fantasy books until the eighth grade, and only started writing at age 16. Why this change, and why did it affect him so much? His teacher, Mrs. Reeder, gave him a book, and that transformed him. He describes himself as pretty much a constant “7” on a scale of 10 when it comes to happiness, but reading and following the experiences of the characters allowed him to experience levels of emotion and feeling that he had never felt before. Empathy with the characters was something that transported him to their view, and brought him to understand emotion in ways he never had before. Writing came because he wanted to be able to create that himself. The rest flowed from there. Those simple moments become defining. If we allow those experiences to help define us, we can pursue those things that bring us joy.

Brandon was asked what to do about “writer’s block”: what do you do when you experience it? His advice might seem blasphemous to those who, like myself, like to see things done well, or done right, the first time: just jump straight into it. When he doesn’t know what to do, he just writes. Even if it’s horrible, he writes. When it needs to be fixed, he throws out the mistakes, and goes at it again. In his words, it’s much easier to fix something flawed rather than create something good “out of wholecloth.” You can always go back and fix mistakes, but you can’t expect perfection. Especially for young writers, he said, you’ll run into so many things you have to throw out; but as you gain experience, it becomes easier for good writing to flow if you let it out. You have to accept that mistakes will have to be thrown out, and that a better, stronger “you” might be the product of the writing, not the book or the writing itself. If you write, and want to write better, then write! What does a musician do to improve? They practice music! His philosophy is that the journey comes before the destination. If you ever feel stuck, if you feel paralyzed by the task in front of you, maybe just try doing it. A sculptor is only ever able to see the product of the stone once it’s become clear. Our lives and our efforts are precisely the same This spoke to me so much, as one who tends to let perfectionism stop me from acting in a moment. If you want to work on something, just try it out, and throw out the mistakes when they come, and keep trying.

Throughout the interview, he spoke to his reasons for believing in God. In the beginning, he referred to his mission a fair amount. When he first went to the MTC, he felt very much like a fish out of water. “What am I doing?” was a question he asked himself. Even when asked about such things as the Plan of Salvation, which he’d heard of his whole life, he’d think “What? What’s that?” Being in an experience where he had to teach things that he had learned made him pay so much more attention to it that simply being told he needed to learn it. Contrary to what this implies, though, he never went on his mission because of cultural or familial expectations: rather, he went because of his testimony. In particular, he feels that, although he doesn’t know the truth of all things, he knows the God loves His children, perhaps in the same way that Nephi meant when you spoke with an angel. Without having a perfect knowledge, he knows that God is there, that God helped him know that writing would be good for him to pursue, and that he knew he should seek to marry his now wife. He said, if you plant a seed of faith, just start small and build upon it. As he tested the Lord, and received a manifestation of His love and power, he followed the path, and the joy and the fruits of it have blessed him ever since. I think we forget just how involved the Lord can be, if we let him.

This interview, though simple, was made in such a way that you do get to access the mind of Brandon Sanderson, and his mind is full of treasure. This interview was an hour, and I hardly was able to cover even ten minutes of interview. I have to admit it, though: I haven’t read one of Brandon Sanderson’s books. I’ve been intending to read them for years, but this just inspires me to want to read them even more now. Brandon Sanderson seems like a genuinely amazing man, one who is deeply thoughtful and empathetic, and wants to see the light contrast with the darkness. He seeks to follow what makes him feel happy, and to include the Lord in all aspects of that. We can find faith, take steps forward, and worry less that we’ll make mistakes, and more that we are able to make mistakes yet still correct what isn’t good. If you could listen to the entire interview, there are at least ten other points that he went into depth about. He is full of knowledge and life, and I hope that I can have some of that when I get to his age. Regardless, if you want good life advice, or just good writing advice, go find his interview, listen, and be edified with him.

Watch the full interview here: 

Why I Believe with Brandon Sanderson

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