Why do you teach and not just write full-time?
What a good question. So I only teach one class now. I used to teach full-time before the writing took off. There is a class called "How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy," and I just can't let go. What we did is we moved it to one night a week for three hours instead of one hour three days a week and we moved it to a night class. So it's Thursday nights and it's only one semester; we cancelled all the other things of it. But I can't let go. There's enough of me that is a professor that I need to get out of the house and do something. I can't just sit in my room all the time.
Beyond that, I took this class in 2000, so 16 years ago. I took it from David Farland, who has come and signed here at UBooks before. It was so important to me as a writer because my other professors were good writers and they could talk about writing but they had never made a living as a writer. There's only so much, if you want to be a professional, you can learn from people who aren't themselves professionals. They know a lot about being a professor and they know a lot about writing good writing. They don't know about how to take that good writing and make a career out of it. When I took the class from Dave, when he said practical things like, "Here are tools you can use try and get past writer's block." I'd never heard that before. In my other writing classes it was things like, "If you have writer's block, seek your muse. Go sit outside and stare at the clouds." Things like this that you get from an art degree. And Dave's like, "Yeah, if you have writer's block, try writing longhand, that works for me. Take a notebook and write in it. Try writing a first-person viewpoint monologue from one of the characters talking about their frustrations right now in life." And it works really well. If you've got writer's block you're like, "Oh, let's talk through why the character's frustrated, have them talk to me." Or you've got writer's block, he'll say, "You know what? Try just throwing something against the wall. Try having ninjas attack." Stuff like this that you're not going to put in the book, but it's just to get you thinking and writing. Practical advice like that. He's like, "If you want to publish in science fiction and fantasy you might want to go to World Fantasy Convention and meet some of the professional writers there and get their advice." I'd never heard anything like that.
I feel it's important for me to continue this class. Dave moved off to try to make movies and they were going to cancel it because they just didn't have a writer to teach it. So I said, "Yeah, I'll teach that class". This was back when I had sold a book and they didn't know what to do with me. Here I'm teaching freshman composition, I'm getting my master's degree in creative writing and we're all dancing through flowers and talking about our feelings as you do in art degrees. Then I walked in one day and said, "Hey, I got a book deal." And it terrified all my professors they had no idea what to do with that. They said, "Well, that's probably gonna to be your master's thesis then, Sanderson." It was Elantris as my master's thesis. So having somebody there who writers can go and say, "How do I sell a book? What does an agent do? How do I make a character sympathetic?" People don't talk about those sorts of things. They talk about the prose, but they don't talk about those things. That's why I still do it.