Snow is falling. So I look up.
The world mystifies when you stare up through falling snow. Even standing still, you can soar. Even alone, you are surrounded. Even mundane, you find magic. I’ve spent my life chasing the fantastical, yet everything I’ve ever imagined can be casually matched by someone tilting their head up so they can experience it. The soft. Settling. Aspiration.
Of snow on an otherwise ordinary day.
When I was eighteen, I moved from Nebraska to Utah. Here, snow is fleeting, embarrassed to be an obstruction. But in Nebraska, snow squats. It claims land, builds empires. You fight it all winter, carving pathways, reconquering your sidewalks. The cold digs inside, frosting your bones with a chill that lingers, even after you return to warmth.
I often think of those snowy days, now that I live in a desert. But each year my memories are a little less fresh. We build our lives with layer upon layers of years, like falling snow. And like the new snow, most experiences melt away. In interviews, I’ve been asked to recount my most frightening experience. I struggle to answer because it’s the lost memories that scare me—the unnerving knowledge that I’ve forgotten the majority of moments that made me who I am. Those dribbled away when I wasn’t looking and joined the spring runoff of life.
Fortunately, some experiences do remain. In one, I’m fourteen, and it’s a cold night in Nebraska. My best friend at the time was a boy we’ll call John. Though we went to different schools, he was one of the only other Mormon kids around, so our parents often had us play together. When you’re very young, it’s proximity—not shared interests—that makes friends. This often changes as you age. By fourteen, John had found his way to basketball, parties, and popularity. I had not.
On that day, after a youth activity, another friend suggested we leave to go have some fun. I don’t remember where. Strange, that I’ve lost what this was about, though the rest of the scene is etched into the glacial part of my brain. One of us was old enough to drive, so we headed out to their car.
Five seats. Six teens. They’d already counted.
Without a word to me, the others climbed in. John gave me one hesitant look, then settled into the front passenger seat and closed the door. They left me on the curb. The car vanished, taillights flaring in the night like lit cigarettes.
The memory settled in for the long winter. That night. Watching. Remembering John’s face, which was so strikingly conflicted. Half ashamed. Half resigned.
I was no stranger to being outside. It happens when you’re one of three Mormon kids in a large school. You’ll be at a birthday party, and the wine coolers will come out. Everyone stands there worrying you’ll judge them—while you just want them to stop staring. But you leave anyway, because you know they’ll enjoy themselves more if you and your unusual morals aren’t there to loom.
It should have been different that night though, watching John and the others drive away. They were in my church group—ostensibly, my tribe. They’d still left me outside.
This event shocked me in how dramatic it was, as I wasn’t generally bullied. I tended to be adept at social settings. People generally liked me. At the same time, there was something I’d begun to notice. Something distancing about me.
It happens still. It isn’t that people shun me or don’t want me around; indeed, they seem to appreciate me. When I join a group, I generally end up leading it in some way, and I never sense resentment to this fact. But I also have an air around me. Some writer friends call me the “adult in the room.” I tend to attack projects too aggressively, tend to be the one who steps in and gets things done—even when they don’t need to be done immediately, and when everyone else would rather relax.
This comes, in part, from a certain…oddity about me that started in my young teens, around the time that John drove off. As my friends grew hit puberty, they became more emotional. The opposite happened to me. Instead of experiencing the wild mood swings of adolescence, my emotions calcified. I started waking up each day feeling roughly the same as the day before. Without variation.
Around me, people felt passion, and agony, and hatred, and ecstasy. They loved, and hated, and argued, and screamed, and kissed, and seemed to explode every day with a pressurized confetti of unsettling emotions.
While I was just me. Not euphoric, not miserable. Just…normal. All the time.
Often, it genuinely seems like I exist outside of human experience. It’s not sociopathy. I’m quite empathetic—in fact, empathy is one of the ways that I can feel stronger emotions. I’m not autistic. I don’t have a single hallmark of that notable brand of neurodivergence. It’s also not what is called alexithymia, which is a condition where someone doesn’t feel emotions (or can’t describe them).
I care about people, and I feel. I’m not empty or apathetic. My emotions are simply muted and hover in a narrow band. If human experience ranges between a morose one and an ecstatic ten, I’m almost always a seven. Every day. All day. My emotional “needle” tends to be very hard to budge—and when it does move, the change is not aggressive. When others would be livid or weeping, I feel a sense of discomfort and disquiet.
My emotions do go a little further than this on occasion, maybe once a year. It takes something incredible—such as being deeply betrayed by someone I trusted.
I’m not looking for sympathy; I don’t want to be fixed. I appreciate this aspect of my makeup—and it’s part of what makes me so consistent at writing. When everyone else is in crisis, I’ll just steam along. At the same time, when everyone else is elated by some good news…I’ll just steam along, unable to feel the heights of the joy they feel.
It makes people uncomfortable sometimes. Makes them think I’m judging them. While I’m absolutely not, I do try to be careful how I talk about my condition. Not as something to fear. Something, instead, I’m proud of—not because it makes me better than anyone else, but because it’s me. I like being me.
My neurodivergence came up in a recent interview I did. The interviewer latched onto the fact that I don’t feel pain like others do. (More accurately, some mild pains don’t cause in me the same response they do others.) I asked the interviewer not to mention it in his article, as I felt the tone to our discussion was wrong. I worry about my oddity changing the way people think of me, as I don’t want to be seen as an emotionless zombie. So I try to speak of it with nuance.
As the interviewer ignored my request, I thought I’d talk about it here. Profile myself for you—because this aspect of who I am has deep ties to another happening from my teenage years. In this, I want to answer a big question for you, the one everyone wonders about. The key to understanding Brandon Sanderson.
Why do I write?
Why do I write so much?
Why do I write so much fantasy?
Let me tell you about the first day, that beautiful day, when I found myself inside.
It was when I opened a fantasy novel. I was an isolated kid whose emotions were doing something bizarre. Even John leaving had left me feeling…disturbed more than angry. Alone, and outside. Then I opened a book where I found emotion.
In that story about dragons, and wonder, and people trying impossible things, I found myself. I felt a variety of powerful emotions through the characters—emotions that I remembered from when I’d been younger.
I hadn’t tried reading fiction in a long while, so I was blindsided by this perfect book. The experience transformed me, quick as a boy tilting his head back, looking up, and finding a new world.
When I read or write from the eyes of other people, I legitimately feel what they do. There’s magic to any kind of story, yes—but for me, it is transformative. I live those lives. For a brief time, I remember exactly what passion, and agony, and hatred, and ecstasy feel like. My emotions mold to the story, and I cry sometimes. I legitimately cry. I haven’t done that outside of a story in three decades.
Stories bring me inside.
My second published novel is called Mistborn. It’s about a world where ash falls like snow, and I can linger, looking up through it via a character’s eyes. Near the beginning of Mistborn, the teenage protagonist finds herself standing outside a room. It is full of light and laughter and warmth. But she knows, she knows she doesn’t belong inside that room.
Nearer the end of the book, I linger on as similar scene—only now, she’s sitting with the others. Light and laughter. Warmth. Mistborn was the first novel I wrote after getting the call offering me a book deal. Finally—after slaving over a dozen unpublished manuscripts—I knew I was going to be a professional writer. With that knowledge, I wrote Mistborn, the book about a girl who learns to come inside.
While writing Mistborn, I changed. Now that I’d made it inside of publishing—now that I’d joined those authors I’d loved for so long—why would I keep writing? I needed a new goal, and I discovered it that year.
So let me tell you why I write. It isn’t about worldbuilding; that’s a mistake everyone makes about me. Assuming I write because of worldbuilding is like assuming someone makes cars because they love cup holders. It’s also not because I’m Mormon, as some profiles bizarrely conclude. My faith and cultural heritage are both important to me, but if I were any other religion, that aspect of me would rightly be a footnote—not a headline.
I don’t write for plot twists, or dragons, or clever turns of phrase—though I enjoy all of these. I write because stories bring people inside. And I sincerely, genuinely believe that is what the world needs.
Lately, I’ve seen a resurgence of something that genuinely disquiets me: an attempt by some members of our community to hold others outside. Science fiction and fantasy is forever gatekeeping what constitutes good or worthy stories. Like my old friend John, who sought cooler friends, we renounce anything accessible—part of our perpetual (and largely fruitless) plea for legitimacy with the literary establishment.
Thing is, I can’t really get mad when someone does this, because I’ve done it myself in the past. The unfortunate truth is that we all probably have at times. The moment a group finds cohesion—discovering the warmth and peace of being inside—we decide there aren’t enough seats, so we start muscling and pushing. Readers who came in because of the latest popular teen novel? Outside. Fans of the film version of a story, instead of the book version? Outside. People who don’t look the same as the supposedly conventional fan? I suspect they know this struggle far better than I do.
To use a thematic metaphor, it’s like we’re dragons on our hoard of gold, jealously keeping watch, worrying that if anyone new enters, their presence will somehow dilute our enjoyment. The irony is that there is infinite space inside, and if we open the way, we’ll find many of these newcomers are the very treasure we’re seeking.
Fantasy, out of all genres, should embrace the different, even if it doesn’t match our specific taste. This is the genre where anything can happen—and should, therefore, be the most open genre. Only fantasy offers me the full range of emotion. The wonder of exploration. The magnificent highs of epic scope and the miserable lows of cataclysmic terror. In writing it, I can learn. Monomaniacal, I hunt experiences of people different from myself, then explore them in prose until I feel—in some small part—what they do.
This is why I write. To understand. To make people feel seen. I type away, hoping some lonely reader out there, left on a curb, will pick up one of my books. And in so doing learn that even if there is no place for them elsewhere, I will make one for them between these pages.
Those who interview me seem to have trouble understanding this fundamental part of who I am: that writing for me isn’t so much about performance as it is about exploration and elevation. I love prose both literary and commercial. And I think I write great prose. I’ve slaved over my style, practicing for decades, honing it for crisp clarity. My prose is usually intended to convey ideas, theme, and character, then get out of the way—because this is how I strive to bring everyone inside.
That said, I know my goal is impossible. Occasional strolls through the outside are part of being human, and I can’t eliminate that. And even I have to admit that there are lessons to be learned on those lonely paths. For example, contrast is the only way to appraise growth. Emotional alien I may be, but that very alienation has motivated me to understand. I value the connections I’ve made so much more for that struggle.
Moreover, I find that occasionally looking in through a window at everyone else gives a person a more complete perspective. Inside, things can get messy, and a streak of color finds it hard to comprehend the painting. I’m a better writer because of my time spent looking in. I don’t know that I could have written Mistborn if I hadn’t been left on that curb.
This isn’t to discount the pain of those who have been forced outside. Nor is it an advocacy for extended periods spent in the cold. I also don’t know if I could have written Mistborn if the wonderful people of the science fiction and fantasy community (including many of the friends I now work with) hadn’t latched on to me in college and—at times—forcibly pulled me inside to be with them. Beyond that, as I’ve grown older, I’ve found people like Emily, who love me in spite of (and partially because of) my quirks. Blessedly, because of this, my times outside have been increasingly brief.
My goal here is merely to point out (as I’ve had occasion to remember recently) that beautiful moments do accompany the isolation. You can only watch the snow fall when you’re outside. Only then can you look up and experience that mystifying world, where fragments of the sky drift past and lift you toward the heavens.
I’m forty-seven now, enjoying desert snowfalls in early April. The man I am is separated by distance and time from that boy who stood on the curb, and I’ve forgotten most of the steps that led between the two. I still don’t feel strong emotions outside of stories—but I did tell an interviewer lately that I sometimes cry when writing scenes in my books. They just aren’t the scenes that I thought he’d expect.
I don’t necessarily cry when characters die, or when they marry, or even when they find victory. I cry when it works. When it all comes together, and in a beautiful shimmering burst of humanity, I feel what it is to be that character. At those times, I remember what I learned twenty years ago writing Mistborn. That there’s a reason I do this. And even if I’ve lost more memories than I retain, each of them had a point, because they collectively brought me here.
So when you find yourself in the cold, know that sometimes, there’s a purpose to it. Trust me; I’ve been there. I might be there right now. Feeling the cold on my cheeks—but these days, no longer in my bones. Knowing that this will pass, and that it might be for my good. Most of all, looking up so I can appreciate it. The still. Solemn. Perspective.
Of one who stands outside.
It’s been six years since I was there in your class, Brandon, but I have never forgotten how it felt to be brought into a place where someone finally seemed to understand me. In many ways I feel like the opposite of you; I am autistic, while you readily admit that you aren’t. I revel being alone and outside (not to mention snow is my favorite weather), while being in with everyone else quickly drains me until I have to leave to be alone again. And most of all, most days it seems like I feel too much, that while your emotional needle is steady, mine never, ever stops swinging back and forth like a metronome on the highest BPM. But when I got into your class, the first time you said the name of one of my characters out loud, was a moment of such stunning clarity that as soon as you described those moments you reach in your books, I understood perfectly. It was a moment where I understood *why* we need both an inside and an outside, because both are necessary. Your class was the crux of so many moments of self-discovery for myself, for things about my writing and about my life, and being able to read this six years later and see that you have had that same journey (just in the opposite direction, in many ways), is touching to me in ways that an entire Stormlight Archive’s worth of words couldn’t do justice. Thank you, Brandon, for everything you do, and I do mean everything.
Thankyou for sharing.
I felt a strange kinship reading this, as I have a similar response to feeling emotion. I found out in my thirties that I had ADHD and this was the reason. ADHD means my mind is always in 30 places thinking of 30 different things, and I am only half-present in the moment. But occasionally, I am 100% in the moment, and this is usually in response to a book or a movie (gandalf Charing down to helm’s deep is a big one), and in these moments I feel like I am experiencing more emotion than anyone in the room.
This is also the reason that I struggle remembering much of my childhood, as we attach memory to emotion. Unfortunately the memories that stick the most are the bad ones, like your experience with the car, and when I think of them, they still feel as painful as if they happened yesterday.
I was fully engaged when I read the wired article, and it upset me a tonne.
For someone that goes to stories to experience them like I do, I was upset that someone could read 17 or your books and completely miss the point.
There is one scene that you wrote that will forever stick out to me. I usually hate action scenes, but this particular scene is not just my favourite action scene, but my favourite scene in any book ever. It’s the arena scene in WoR. That scene, that emotion that I feel when I read it, it’s like I’m there. You truly have given me some of my deepest emotional moments in books, and I just wanted to say thankyou.
Thanks for sharing, Brandon. Given the millions of people that have read your books, you will never know how many you have helped feel inside through one of your characters. But count me as one of them.
Brandon – I discovered you as I finished the wheel of time and shortly after Id read everything you’d published. I still eagerly await everything new. As I read your thoughts here its beautiful to realize just how wonderful you are as a human being. I sincerely hope I get to meet you and thank you one day. I know you probably hear it often but, I cherish your stories and feel a deep gratitude for your work. I bet you are a fantastic person to have as a friend. Thanks for being you.
What a beautiful piece of writing! Thank you, Brandon.
The more I get to know you the more I like you. Thank you for your courage.
Brandon, this is so welcoming and warm. We love you so much! There’s a reason you’ve changed so many lives and it’s because of this. You write to INCLUDE and INVITE everyone, and it comes through in your books.
There’s a character or a story for everyone to feel seen, wanted, and welcome. The world needs more people like you, the church needs more people like you, and we ALL need to be this welcoming to people, regardless of if they may think, look or act differently than us.
You have described perfectly the reason to why I read, I am inside, and I feel and I get to know other lives. I feel alive and secure but at the same time I feel everything else. It is the world were I can retreat to when I am overwhelmed in the real world or the world were I can understand how to process my pain or fear or even to understand what I am feeling. So when you write because you need to understand and feel, and I read because I need to understand and feel, I just have to say Thank you. Love
I’m a 36 year old autistic, but I wasn’t diagnosed until adulthood. As a kid I was called “shy”. I didn’t understand why I wasn’t connecting, but as childhood turned into preteen years I truly didn’t have any friends. My friends were Egwene and Mat and Min. Outside of books adults were easier to talk to than peers. I didn’t have one singular moment – left on the curb – but reading your story I feel deeply that could have been me. In some ways it was. I wasn’t even enough part of the group to be excluded.
Thanks for writing for me. For us. For the othered.
Reading your books truly does make me feel less alone.
(Also, I’m sorry the reporter broke your trust and betrayed your confidence. Sensory processing differences are greatly misunderstood and should never be mocked.)
This was beautiful. I relate so much and it was odd to have my feelings articulated so perfectly. My only difference is that I don’t cry while reading, but the closet I have ever gotten is while reading Oathbringer, at two different moments. You may be able to guess which ones. Thank you for writing this.
This was outstanding. Thank you for writing it. Thank you for making great characters. The moments when your characters really work also make me cry. I’ve reread Oathbringer 4 or 5 times and Dalinar’s moment near the end always fills me with emotion. Spense does too in her climax in Skyward, even on the third reread. I haven’t found anything quite like it reading anyone else’s work. Thank you so much for the art you bring to the world!
Thank you and I understand. Many of the things you speak of from lack of pain to feeling outside I can identify with. I also found inside with reading it’s something I do all the time. Fantasy is my go to and I remember speaking with you in the hallway in Dallas about Shallan and how I identified with her and while I wasn’t articulate at all you got what I was saying. I met you several times before fame kind of shifted where you stood on the beach and I appreciate the doors you have opened for many. Thank you.
This really hit deep. I’ve been on the outside a lot of my life – never quite fit in with the people around me. But when I picked up one of your books… I felt like I was part of the world, one with the people. I cry, sometimes, reading them. And I don’t cry a lot – I just never feel the need to. This just speaks the thoughts I’ve never been able to articulate. Thank you so, so much for writing this, Brandon!
Thank you for sharing what is oftentimes difficult to put into words for me.
Where you recall being left out those few times, I have been left out my entire life—as far back as I can remember and still to this day. Bullied intentionally by some, and simply forgotten by others.
It’s never been clear to me if it’s because of this continual lack of inclusiveness (which I see as different than exclusion, since that implies a level of deliberateness to leaving people outside), or if I was just born this way, but I feel like I’m always between a 7 and a 14 on a 10-point emotion scale.
I feel everything.
But I still read your words and realize that is why I’ve also always loved the fantasy/sci-fi genre. Anyone can love it and be included in the adventure and connections and camaraderie. Of young archanists learning to master their magics. Of a forgotten nobody who finds a knack for the very thing everyone told them they’d never be able to even start. Of an ostracized beast who never lets defeat stop them from progressing. Of a goofy unpowered person whose superpower is terrible puns that actually make sense when explained.
I can read these stories over and over—and frequently do, foregoing new series just to reread the same ones—and live vicariously through them and their adventures. And be reminded that, in another life, on another world, someone just like me *does* find companionship, *does* show others the worth they always knew was inside, *does* master their devils and even *surpasses* those naysayers.
It never occurred to me to ask, “why does Brandon Sanderson write soo much??” I’ve only ever been soo grateful that there’s never a deficit in stories to make me feel … like *I am on the inside*.
Thank you, Brandon Sanderson. (I feel weird typing “Mr. Sanderson, but also, you don’t know me so I don’t feel I’ve earned calling you “Brandon”.)
I really enjoyed reading this. Thanks for sharing.
I appreciate you a great deal for how you do everything possible to “open the doors” of this amazing genre. Before I met my wife, she was suffering from severe depression brought on by her neglectful partner and cruel mother. When all felt lost, she found your uploaded course on YouTube. She saw you bouncing around in your excitement to teach and she became possessed with a desire to write. Her husband at the time she still wrote, her mother tried to call her names and tell her she was a failure, but she still wrote. and after she had written 100,000 words, she then met me, and we fell in love, and we had two more kids to add to the three she started with. We bought a house we even have a cute dog now! Now we slowly read your very long books and attempt to find time to write our own stories. So long story short (but not as long as your novels) I have to thank you from the bottom of my heart for teaching that series on writing that kept the woman I love alive long enough to meet me. Thanks for that.
Thank you for this, Brandon.
A beautiful and heartfelt essay. Your writing has taught me a lot about emotion, empathy and life in general, and your stories reflect your humility as a “student of life”. I know that I am not alone in in my appreciation (and gratitude) for all that you do. Thank you for being you, and thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts with your fans.
Brandon, thank you for sharing your heart and personal experiences with us. I recently finished reading “Tress”, and I was struck by a line at the end to the effect of “don’t let people say you’re boring; they’re just trying to lower your value.”
I see you already understand.
I perceive your quest to understand being inside is what puts you there.
This was a really special piece to read. I appreciate that you had the courage to put yourself out there like this. I see a lot of myself in the words you wrote, just a few weeks ago I explained to my girlfriend exactly what you described about having a limited range of motions. I’m always just pretty good and sometimes I think it’s hard for others to understand that. I loved learning about why you seek to write so much. I kinda did the same, only instead of writing I’ve pursued medicine because I love hearing all the stories from each of the patients every day. It’s really special to be a part of someone’s life and make it better to the best of my ability. And I always try to make them feel “inside” as you put it. Anyways, just wanted to say how much I appreciated this piece. Everything you do makes me so proud to be a fan just cause you seem like a really good person. Thanks for all that you do!
Nice blog here! Also your site loads up fast! What host are you using? Can I get your affiliate link to your host? I wish my web site loaded up as quickly as yours lol
Brandon, this blog is like someone stole my words of why I love your books. I know you might’ve heard this many times, but I feel like I must write this to thank you as well. Stormlight Archive saved me. I would describe myself as emotionally the opposite of you, I feel ecstasy ten some days, and the morose one on most days, my emotions never seem to teeter in the middle, some call me bipolar, but as you said, that’s just me.
During a spell of sadness, when my life wasn’t the best, I picked up the dusty copy of way of kings that had been sitting on my shelf since I finished and loved all the mistborn books. The series had been intimidating, even though I had all of the books on my shelf, I never gave it a try, but in those moments, I wanted to get lost in an epic world, and in that wish to forget what my situation was, I found strength in Kaladin. He felt everything I did, the sadness, the pain, and yet he moved forward, he wallowed in self-pity, but that didn’t stop him from taking action, he was sad, yet strong, the man who I wanted to be.
Then I found Teft in Oathbringer, his journey to get over his self-hatred helped me get over my own issues. Life Before Death, Strength Before Weakness, Journey Before Destination, these words took a man who was drowning, almost dying, and gave him a hand, pulled him up to the surface of the water, and gave him the strength to keep swimming, whether the tide carried him in that direction, or not. Your books gave me the strength to keep swimming, to keep going, and for that I cannot thank you enough. Thank you for bringing me inside.
This all lands extremely close to home.
I’m sure it’s not strictly the intention here, but for what it’s worth:
I get it. I understand, and I share some of these experiences, these states of being.
To the boy on the kerb; I’m sorry that happened. I too was outside most of my adolescence, it’s a lot of things, but mostly it just sucks.
To the man who penned the only book I’ve ever had to stand up out of my seat, elated, as a chapter unfolded; Thank you.
Wow, thank you for sharing this! Your comments about excluding others in order to preserve our own enjoyment (like dragons hoarding gold) resonated most with me. I’ve always hated that behavior, like people who say you can’t be a fan of a band because you didn’t “discover” them early enough (because of course they own the T-shirt from the first tour). To be honest, it’s the biggest reason I don’t participate in online discussions about what I read — I don’t care what other people think about what I think. I just want to read the books. I really respect all of your efforts to reach out to fans and foster an inclusive community, I wish more authors would do the same.
Anyway, thank you thank you thank you for bringing us into your amazing worlds and amazing characters for so many years! I eagerly await every new thing you publish and drop whatever I’m reading to give it my full attention. My next click is to purchase Secret Project 2!
This story is something I think I am going to come back to a lot in my future years. I’m not outside right now, but I definitely can remember times I was outside, and I’m sure I will be in the future. Well done Brandon.
I really appreciate this. I think one of the main reasons I enjoy your books so much is because you connect with your fans. You care about us and I feel like I know you personally through all the interaction you give your readers. It gives your books so much more depth and beauty. Thank you, you are a great man!
I’ve always found my self a little tighter with my emotions than most. Nothing like what you describe, but enough that I know there’s a difference between me and most other people. I’m a sixteen year-old, mormon boy from Oklahoma, and over the past four years I’ve struggled through both depression and pornography addiction. The first of only three times I’ve cried because of a story was when I was in the sixth grade, reading The Way of Kings for the first time. (WoK spoiler warning) When Kaladin stood over the chasm, ready to take his own life, I cried. I cried because I felt like this character knew what I was going through more than anyone else in the world did. Before this (I don’t remember how long before), I had an experience very similar to Kaladin’s. I laid in bed, late at night, overcome by self hatred in what is to this day the strongest feeling I’ve ever felt. That night was the only time in my life I ever seriously contemplated suicide, but a still, small voice, that I now recognize as the holy spirit, comforted me and gave me reason to keep living.
I’m an aspiring author myself now, and that’s because of you. Your books carried me through the most trying time in my life, and I place their impact on my life nearly equal to the scriptures. The summer of my eighth grade year, I decided to try to write a story for the first time. The only completed chapter of Law of the Dusts was a terrible fusion of The Stormlight Archive and Wax and Wayne, but it’s one I’ll remember fondly. Ever since I first read one of your books, I’ve idolized you and pushed myself to be like the person who brought me inside after the darkest moment of my life. Now I’m a sophomore in high school, and the third time I’ve cried at a story, was here, reading your story.
Outside was a sudden, but needed punch in the face. I realized your human, like me. Writing for you was a matter of feeling emotion, and to help other’s feel emotion through your characters too. I realized that before, I wrote because I wanted to emulate you, and that if emulation was my reason for writing, I would never achieve my life long goal of joining the ranks of authors like you, Jordan, or Card. Now, You’ve given me some soul searching to do, I still love writing, I just don’t know why yet.
I look forward to what my future entails. I plan to serve a full time mission, and to attend college at BYU Provo. I hope that I can learn to write from the author I’ve so long idolized, maybe by then I’ll know why I love to write.
Brandon Sanderson, Thank you.
I would hope you know you don’t have to apologize or explain anything to us, Brandon. And it’s not like you’re the first person in history who finds himself in a kind of constant emotional equilibrium.
I do feel bad that, in an article determined to give you a 1-star review as a person, this particular criticism needed addressing. A proper journalist would have known better than to trample on something so personal. It’s honestly none of our business, but knowing about it did not affect my opinion of you. I think you’re great.
Thank you, Mr. Sanderson, for all the time you’ve spent outside, and for creating worlds and characters to explore, inviting us all inside to know them better. I discovered your books when I was 15, a kid who often found himself outside. I never felt like I could fit in, even among those in my own “tribe”. I think this can make us feel even more lonely, knowing there are all these people, friends or family, who share so many similarities and beliefs with us, and yet don’t quite know what to do with us. It can be crushing to see how easily others can get along without you there, and to wonder if you will every fit in with them, or if they ever even need or want you to. The first book I remember reading of yours was Elantris. It was a gift from my mom, and I devoured it within the week I received it. Raoden’s bravery and tenacity to fight for the good of his people, to protect those who had been shunned by society, who had been left alone in the outside of things, struck my young heart as something wonderful. A few years later as a junior in High School I went to a local book shop looking for something new to read and a kind customer there offered me a gigantic book called “The Way of Kings”. This one touched me in a similar way. Seeing Kaladin strive to keep fighting on despite falling into the deepest depths of depression pulled me out of my own teenaged pits. At the end of my senior year I traveled to a new country far from my Utah home for the first time. On a whim in the airport book store I bought Mistborn to read while on the plane. I will always remember that trip to India whenever I re-read that book. The feelings Vin had as an outsider looking in who finally winds up finding family and friends in a harsh world helped me through a time in my life when I had never felt more outside and alone, and helped me see that family can be found, even on the other side of the world.
Thank you again for the stories, I will keep reading them, and will always enjoy finding others who do. Whenever that happens, our little “inside” space gets bigger and brighter, and that’s all because of you.
As a kid I would stick my head in a book obsessively. Each moment I couldn’t spend reading was uncomfortable, so I took a book or two everywhere, hands always itching for the pages. School was full of obstacles. I spent my time counting the seconds until I could get back to my reading. Teachers would have to take my books away in class because I’d be told to pay attention, and then after a few minutes I’d sneak my book back out onto my lap. My parents took my books away at night because I could read by the light of the window, and they’d catch me staying up way past my bed time.
I realize now that the discomfort was because I was someone on the outside. Stories kept me company while I was lonely and anxious. Later, stories would be the shared connection that brought together my lovely friends, my found family, and I now have a happy social life. Stories are community.
That was absolutely beautiful. I being the youngest of 11 and younger years I was also finding myself on the outside understand the hurt and pain that is associated with that. But it’s because I understand that pain is why I look for others that are alone, so that I can bring them in, befriend them and help them feel less lonely, which makes me feel less lonely. Your writing has given so many a deep understanding into complex emotional and mental issues. For so many of us who have lived with depression, anxiety, perfectionism, abuse, ptsd, etc.. it helps us feel seen not just let in, but that another person sees us, understands us and helps us know we aren’t alone.
I was recently talking a a friend of mine about what being vulnerable does to those your vulnerable with. And how being vulnerable create deep connected friendships because it allows the other person to see the “room” we all try to hide our “messy bits” in. And unlocking that door and showing others that side ultimately also unlocks deep connection you wouldn’t have otherwise. These relationships aren’t shallow. This is what your writing does. By you being vulnerable in your writing and letting your readers in, brings a deeper connection and relationship you wouldn’t have otherwise. This is why there is such a phenomenon about the loyalty your fans have with you that others don’t understand. Your vulnerability leads to deep connections, even if it’s between us and a character you have written. And by being vulnerable in your writing allows us to feel seen and have a connection with those characters and thru them you.
Thanks for all you do, and for being such a genuinely nice and authentic person.
Brandon, thank you so much for sharing, your books have had a huge impact on my life and I greatly appreciate it! Stormlight and Writing Excuses have helped me grow so much in writing. Just dont you dare die before the cosmere is complete
Your stories and your outreach have brought so many inside. I am astounded by the way you share your expertise and your craft with others through your podcast, BYU class, YouTube videos, etc. Thank you for writing immersive stories that move us and make us feel.
Thanks so much for this Brandon, your books have captivated me since I first picked them up, there’s just something about them that no other book has. your not just my favorite author, your my hero too!
I promise you Kaladin: You will be warm again.
Thank you for Shallan and Jasnah when I was trying to find my footing in academia, when I was worried I would never be good enough for my brilliant mentor, when I thought I hadn’t anything important to contribute and everyone hated me but was too nice to say so.
Thank you for Jasnah, brilliant, beautiful, uncompromising Jasnah, being ace like I am, and making us that little bit more alike.
Thank you for Renarin being so, so loved, even if he isn’t always understood.
Thank you for “I’ll see what I can do” and “you cannot have my pain” and “you will be warm again.” Thank you for dogs and dragons and Fleet and flutes.
Thank you for catching me in the storm. Thank you for holding the door open. You see us, even if you don’t know us.
We see you too.
As someone who has had a lifetime of friends excluding them for one reason or another, I can remember, in vivid detail, no matter how mundane or short, each interaction like John leaving you. Those have always stung me more than the normal pain that life is famous for throwing at us like disability or divorce or failure. Those things were horrible for me too, but they never felt personal. You can’t remember the face of the person who gave you type 1 diabetes at 20. But I absolutely know each and every face that looked at me when decided I shouldn’t be with them for the rest of the night.
I don’t blame those people, and like you mention I don’t hate being outside. But I’ll never stop questioning what it was about me that said I didn’t belong. It was so personal and vindictive. It hurt so immensely. But that didn’t stop me from turning around and doing the exact same to others when I was given the chance.
To hear you point out that your writing. The writing that got me to read again, finally, after a decade of quitting reading. The first to bring me to tears in 5 years with The Way of Kings. The first story to, truly, understand how I feel about my disability with Rysn. To see that all of that was an effort to make a place for me inside – there are no words I can type to express my gratitude.
Thank you Mr. Sanderson
I only hope I can pay it forward and make more space for others myself
Your books have welcomed me inside on more than one occasion.
Thank you so much for that sense of being seen and understood.
You’re working with some truly powerful magic here 🙂
Thank you for sharing this!
And when life feels cold, remember there is a bonfire awaiting you with all your loved ones surrounding it. When you forget why you do the thing remember you are loved. Thank you, Brandon. You are an amazing person and I wish to meet you one day, to shake your hand. May you stay warm inside.
Thank you for putting into words an experience I didn’t know how to say.
This is precisely what I needed to read tonight – and it will be what I need to re-read in two months when my own storm has hopefully passed for a time. It resonates so much with me on that level, and helps to remind me that the current troubles will pass.
It’s also simply amazing to get this particular window onto someone I respect so highly – even though the impetus is unfortunate events. I’ve never stopped reading as I’ve grown up, even though so many others seem to have done so – it’s the in thing. I’ve always thought it was really about understanding others – especially the authors. So, the extra view is extra meaningful. Of course, there’s so much more here than just that, but, for now….that will do.
The characters you write seem realistic, it makes me feel that Cosmere does exist.
Your prose is great and unique , this shows the amount of work you have put in it.
Each time i read your books and articles , my respect for you increases.
Thank you for sharing
I cannot express how much this resonates with me. Thank you for writing books that make me cry, when I too cannot cry for things in the real world.
Victories and deaths are overrated, I too cry to the little moments of stories.
Thank you, I needed this.
*SPOILERS FOR OATHBRINGER*
“This is why I write. To understand. To make people feel seen. I type away, hoping some lonely reader out there, left on a curb, will pick up one of my books. And in so doing learn that even if there is no place for them elsewhere, I will make one for them between these pages.”
Let me shout from the rooftops how much Mr. Sanderson’s literature has meant to me. After growing up in a dangerous country, and then moving to the suburbs of America, I felt so alone. I had all of these experiences and memories that created a battlefield in my own mind, I felt like Shallan fighting against Formless, or Kaladin in despair and losing the war against his own self. Too scared to tell others, too scared to face it myself, I became someone entirely new, someone who had never seen the things that the little younger version of me saw, a typical Suburbian teenager. Reading Shallan’s character arc has been so healing for me, especially the scene with Shallan and Wit after Grund’s death. The most hilarious part of my story, is that I actually ended up marrying a total Adolin, someone who hasn’t seen the horrors that this world has to offer, who sees the best in everyone, even when it costs him. He is so simple and predictable, and he has amazing hair!
Anyways, thank you Mr. Sanderson, for giving me someone who understands (even if they are just characters in a story), but mostly for giving me hope.
I have to admit I was completely stunned to hear and read some responses to that article you referenced. I’m glad you decided to address it and proud of how you did. We’ve shared some passing snippets of conversation at JordanCon and Dragon Con (I’m more of an outlier than an outsider), and I’ve always found you to be warm and engaging and willing to spent more time with your fan base than your schedule really allowed for. =)
Thank you, Brandon, for everything you do. It breaks my heart that you and the people around you have been hurt by someone else’s words. Your words have blessed so many people, my wish is for you to be blessed by words in return.
Remember that you have done much good in the world. Your words and stories have inspired me to be a better person. Kaladin’s resolve to do what’s right, even when it’s costly. Hoid’s relentless encouragement of those who suffer. Steris’ learning to accept and value her unique disposition. Tress’ quiet perseverance in the face of insurmountable obstacles.
As someone who knows what it is like to stand outside, I relate deeply to your experiences. I am grateful that even your suffering has resulted in beauty. In fact, your books have helped me find an incredible community of dear friends.
So be encouraged today. Keep writing. Not everyone will get it, but many will be blessed. Never give up, good sir!
Thank you. Your honesty is stark and beautiful, and true.
Thank you for taking the time to describe the emotional state you exist in. With few exceptions, I have felt that way for as long as I can remember. Like you, I am not autistic or sociopathic. I can readily understand how others feel and why they feel that way. It’s useful for me in the work that I do, but I also sometimes find my lack of strong feelings disturbing. I have often wondered if there’s something wrong with me. Thank you for showing me I’m not alone and for bringing me inside. And thank you for writing stories that bring feelings to me, even when I can’t find them for myself.
Thank you for sharing this with us Brandon. I’ve always thought that the way you described your emotional stability previously was very similar to the way my emotions worked, and now this piece explains how I operate better than I ever could. I also really appreciate the stories you create for us to enjoy, whether we’re happy or sad, inside or outside.
Dear Mr. Sanderson,
I experience that kind of emotional calcification as well, though for me it can probably be chalked up to neurodivergence. I’m a writer thanks to you, working on my own fantasy story. I wrote a paper about The Way Of Kings as part of my application to a school that follows a Great Books curriculum (and I wrote about why I considered it to be one), and recieved one of their largest merit scholarships as a result. Stormlight has been one of my special interests for years now, and it’s made me several friends. I don’t cry over any books except for yours. I never feel joy as strongly as I do when reading (or rereading, or re-rereading) the ending of The Way Of Kings. Kaladin and Renarin are the most important fictional characters to me— ever. I feel represented when I read about them, especially Renarin, who exists at the intersection of several of my own aspects of identity. That’s the extent to which your books bring me inside. I can’t speak for anyone else, but you’ve definitely achieved your goal with the college student behind this screen. Thank you so much, Mr. Sanderson!
As an “Insider”, this essay will make me think on my reaction to ALL personalities that I meet in the future. I hope for as long as I live!
He deals the cards as a meditation,
and those he plays never suspect,
he doesn’t play for the money he wins.
He doesn’t play for respect.
He deals the cards to find the answer,
the sacred geometry of chance,
the hidden law of a probable outcome.
The numbers lead a dance.
— Sting, “Shape Of My Heart”
Thank you thank you thank you Brandon for taking the time to write this. I’ve never known how to put the way I feel (or don’t feel) into words and like a great write you did it for me. Reading this makes me feel less like a freak and more like a human again. I swear everything you write makes me emotional. This kind of honesty is beyond rare as so many people are unwilling to be vulnerable. If more people could say how they really felt I think we’d all begin to accept one another inside. Thanks again.
I know that I desperately crave the feeling of being understood! I truly believe that understanding is one of the things that we as humans desire most. One of my favorite quotes about this is:
“Feeling listened to and understood changes our physiology. Being able to articulate a complex feeling and having our feelings recognized lights up our limbic brain and creates an aha moment.” -The Body Keeps the Score
Thank you for this article and for all your characters throughout your many books. I feel seen and understood by many of them in ways I never knew I needed!
Thanks brandon, i can’t even tell how much i owe to you and your books. I’ve had some very bad days two years ago, i never felt so lonely like in those days. than i found Kaladin, a character that changed me. Than i found your other books, your youtube channel, the video of your course at the BYU. I’ve learned so much from you, and i strongly believe that’s also thanks to you and your stories if i feel this good now. It’s definitely thanks to you if after 3 years i finally finished my first fantasy book (If i will ever get published you will be mentioned for sure). Thanks for sharing your stories with me and all your fans, you have no idea how much your work and your attitude inspire me.
thanks again, from a fan.
(sorry if i made some mistakes, i’m actually italian and i dont know english very well)
Thank you for sharing your unique perspective. I find it inspiring and helpful.
It’s sad to me that we live in such a cynical time. Throughout most of history, stories celebrated “heroes” (no matter hoe problematic they might be through todays lens.
Despite that long history, society tries to say that adults should only appreciate antiheroes, who lie, cheat and kill for personal gain, losing more and more of their soul as the story progresses.
Stories of people trying to be good, despite their limitations, their misjudgments, their inability to rise above their circumstances are unsophisticated, and less literary than a tale of jerks out jerking each other.
For a while, I bought into that.
But I’m 55 now, and years ago discovered that those around me are almost all those heroes, trying to do good in a hard world.
Thank you, Brandon for telling their stories- whether they are Mistborn or a single mom, it’s the same battle.
And thank you for the reminder of what Fantasy and Sci Fi meant to me when I was a left behind kid as well.
Hermoso, gracias por estas palabras y todas las que has escrito. Un abrazo.
This was beautifully written. As someone who has often been on the outside, I want to say thank you for sharing and writing so many amazing books! They have certainly helped me find some refuge and a place to belong. I have never connected with a story so strongly in my life (and I read a lot)! Nothing else has ever come close. I appreciate the work you share with us all so much!
Thank You. For this and your stories and worlds.
I… the whole “emotional calcification” thing. That’s me. I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone capture what that’s like so well. In a very real sense, even directly in this post, you helped me feel inside. Thank you.
(Sidenote: I noticed someone above mentioned they had it too and believed it was related to their ADHD, so I suppose I should mention I’m another data point in that direction. It makes sense, too.)
I don’t personally know you, but you write as if you know me. I believe that’s the “thing”, “the answer”, the fact that that a very confused writer couldn’t express in his article: you write like you know what a normal, therefore imperfect, human being is.
I confess, reading Shallan is difficult for me, she is so perfectly broken… but that’s it, isn’t it? that’s the beauty, the simplicity, the truth of life: is ok to be broken, is ok not knowing exactly what’s happening inside of you.
Your books are not an escape for me, they are a mirror that is safe to look at, that’s the gift that you have unknowingly given to a little girl that was left outside more times than you can count.
Thank you doesn’t even start to cover it, but that’s all I can say: Thank you! Please keep going, keep gifting the world with stories that make us think inside, and be sure that there are millions of people for whom these stories are a gift, as they are for me, a gift of reality mixed with hope, sprinkled with magic.
Brandon – I love your books, I love how you write, I’m envious of how you write but alas I’m just a finance guy :).
All the best and keep writing and I’ll keep buying.
Someday we will meet.
I’m the same age as you and have written some 40 novels, and I’ve never even tried to get any published because I feel my style is too difficult/”high brow” for the consumer market. I’ve tried to write commercially in the past but it always feels like I’m incapable and/or butchering the novels in the editorial process. I’ve grown to appreciate the style I have, and take pleasure in both the formation of a novel over time and particularly the strange, wonderful ideas that emerge while in that particular state (you know what I mean). With that said, I think the above is beautifully written and even though I’m not the biggest fan (I’ve read six of your novels, the Jordan ones and Mistborn), I’ve always admired the fact that you seem to have a huge sense of professionalism and community orientation in your conduct as an author. Ultimately we’re all dead men, as the movie Gladiator stated, but at least we’re lucky enough to be able to explore our imaginations and craft something tangible from them. Best of luck on completing your impressive endeavor, and don’t let the gatekeepers and fashionistas from ever doubting your intent.
The wired article is a piece of trash. I knew this when I read it a week ago, as I suspect most will know when reading it. Its author comes across as incensere, uninterested, unimaginative, disrespectful and most notably, immoral.
I can imagine it feels bad knowing that its out there, but don’t spend too much time defending yourself. Its just someone with an opinion on the internet. There are alot of those.
Just keep rocking and do your thing. The success speaks for itself, as do the many people who have followed your classes, read your books or been to a convention. You’ve touched so many people, don’t let this one guy get to you.
I say this not as a huge fanboy defending you but as someone that read one of your books years back and really liked it.
Thanks for making a space for us. I found your books just 2 years back, and at a time where I was in a really rough spot mentally. The experiences your boosk gifted me grounded me like an anchor and helped me to get into a better headspace.
They helped me feel seen and appreciated and it helped immensly to see the characters carry on despite their struggles. On top of that they also helped me understand myself and the people around me.
I’ve become a lot better since then but your books are still something I think about almost every day. I’ve listened to most of them multiple times by now, and I still find them captivating.
I also appreciate the clarity of your words. Sure some other authors use extraordinary flourishes that sound pretty, but they also make it harder to follow. English isn’t my mother tongue and your books were some of the first that I could
read/listen to in English without having to look up some fancy word every second sentence..
Your books are do have a huge positive impact.
They did for me anyway.
Beautiful essay Brandon,
It resonated with me, and reminded me strongly of Ursula le Guin’s essay ‘Being taken for Granite’.
I always (perhaps wrongly) interpreted her simile about granite as to people taking her for being unmovable and emotionless.
She preferred to be likened to mud instead, accepting and moved by the footprints of others, real or fictional. Interested and touched by people’s emotions, while not radiating them strongly herself.
I feel she was not emotionless, and neither are you.
This was an enjoyable read for me; thank you Brandon Sanderson for bringing so many people (myself included) inside. Your musings remind me of CS Lewis’ writing “The Inner Ring”
Thank you so much for this!
Brandon rest assured that your strategy is working. I have just experienced being shoved outside by someone i thought I trusted, and i found comfort in this article and you books. Thank you for all that you do.
This was beautiful in so many ways. I read the last lines and started crying. Brandon, I don’t know if you’ll read this, but I love your stories for the same reason you love them. They make me feel. Having dealt with addiction (or compulsive behaviors) Dalinar’s story is like scripture to me. “If I must fall, I will rise each time a better man” is etched in my mind and heart like a favorite scripture. Teft’s story moves me deeply. Reading about Adolin and Syl conspiring to take care of Kaladin in his depths, accepting him despite his flaws and—like you said—almost forcibly bringing him INSIDE moved me to tears.
Thank you for writing this, and thank you for writing.
Reading the comments here shows how much your work mean to a lot of us. I’m not sure if you’ll see this, but on the odd chance you do, here’s my story. Now, I am lucky enough to net have any troubles with my health, mental or other (even though as I get older I do tend to wonder if I don’t have some mild case of some thing), so I don’t have any stories about how your books pulled me through a dark place, but I too have a lot to thank you for, though for entirely different reasons. You see, english is not my native language and when I first read your books (Mistborn: TFE was my first), I read them in my local language. I took some tome for me to actually pick up a second book from you (even though I did like Mistborn – still do), but when I did, (tWoA it was) I was hooked and powered through all your books available in my language. I wanted more. I quickly realised (by the power of google-fu), you do have more books, but they are not in my language. But I SO wanted to read those wonderfull captivating stories, so I made what at the time felt like a giant leap. Untill then, I always consumed everything in my language, even went as far as to look for subtitles for games and dubs for movies and shows.
Then I read Steelheart. In english. To my astonishement I was able to read it without an issue, and what words I didn’t know I was able to understand from the context. Steelheart made me realise my english is probably way better than I thought if only I would have the courage to read and speak it (low self-esteem heh. I guess everyone of us has to have something ). I then voraciously devoured every single one of your published books I was aware of, in english and was able to enjoy, live through and appreaciate all the stories in them. This was a one piece of two piece puzzle I had to solve. The other piece I found when my american conversation teacher taught me it’s ok to make mistakes. You don’t have to speak perfect english. You just have to speak.
These two pieces of puzzle, your clear prose I was able to understand and the truth my teacher made me realise (No, Pattern, this is my Truth, shoo. Go get some of Shallan’s) somehow clicked together. And with that something clicked in my head. Before, I was paralised by fear and indecision whenever I was supposed to speak english, but suddenly I realised I’m able to speak, read and even think in english effortlesly. The last one expecially was a big one for me. I didn’t have to mentaly translate everything, I read, I spoke and I understood.
So thank you, Brandon Sanderson, for writing stories so good they made me come out of my comfort zone and try reading them in english. I saw a lot of people saying your prose isn’t the best, or that it’s simple and not flowery and that’s bad. To them I say – to hell with flowery prose. I want clean, straightforward prose so I can enjoy the stories and characters, even though they are written in my second language.
Keep being you and keep writing stories.
This really resonates with me, Brandon. Thank you, like really.
I often come to myself and remember that I am a person. This may sound weird. I’ll just be going through the motions when all of a sudden I’ll realize that I am a person, and that that matters. Which, for whatever reason, seems alien to me. I feel almost nothing most of the time, except when I engage with stories. They teach and remind me what it is to be human. I love your books, I have cried many times reading them.
I cried twice reading this.
I’ve been on antidepressants and other medications since I was about twelve (I’m 26 now) because my parents saw that I was always sad (or they thought I was—I never noticed). Recently, I’ve had the good fortune to have a counselor help me recognize when I am feeling a specific emotion. I could never do this before, like really, I had no idea. Over the course of a year of working on this, it has changed my entire life and my experience of it.
But even still, the place I go to find meaning, or emotion, is still stories. The highs and lows. I’ve become fascinated with understanding story structure. I especially love character development because it allows me to feel what the characters feel, and character development can make them seem like real people because change inside a person IS real. I am writing a book because I want to feel what the characters inside my head feel.
And I cried twice reading this.
A book I bought the other day about character archetypes that just came out by K.M. Weiland made me cry. I spent the rest of the day happy. It made me cry because it made so much sense. Things that have been rattling around in my head finally clicked. And I cried.
I’ve always hidden that things like this make me cry, because I don’t want to stand out. I’ve been put on a pedestal my entire life because I survived a random blood vessel bursting in my brain that the doctors saved me from. It paralyzed half of my body. I don’t understand how I’m responsible for any of that, let alone why I should be praised for it.
Later I was bullied for it.
I’ve had the opportunity to meet you many times because of where I live. And I’ll be honest, every time I see you I feel like your this big giant that I want to be like. Your one of the reasons I love writing. You seem unapproachable because of what you have accomplished. I’ve had a hard time reconciling that notion of mine with the stories I connect with and the person whose values I’ve come to know through his stories.
I cried while I read this.
I have an issue connecting with people for many reasons, but one of them is that I pause after ever six to ten words when talking. Right between sentences. People tend to think I am done talking and choose then to [insert comment here]. I’m not upset about it, it’s only natural, but it’s still creates a disconnect. That’s part of why I like writing. I just need to make sure the message I want to get across gets across. Which I’m realizing is sort of impossible. People take what is applicable to them and their perspective out of everything. That is also why story is so powerful.
Thanks for giving me a way inside your story and your character as well as another way to reflect on my own. Everything is bigger in the fantastic, and (as I like to say) context is the mother of meaning.
Thank you Brandon, what a beautiful thing you wrote.
The stories you write resonate with so many, and they have helped me through some tough times in my life. I’ve only met you one time in my life, but I can remember it vividly. Years ago, back when you did those little magic the gathering tournaments, I decided to attend one. I didn’t play magic the gathering but I loved your books and my brother was a big fan of yours. I remember sitting down somewhere random and you sat right next to us. This guy whose books felt larger than life was just sitting next to us. And he was just a dude. Like everyone else just a person. It was a surreal realization. I remember working up the courage to ask you if one of my favorite characters had really died. I had no concept of RAFO or the idea that you wouldn’t just spread all your ideas out for everyone to see right away. So I asked and it felt like the entire room just stopped and stared at me, “RAFO” they exclaimed having a good laugh at my silly question. And I almost started crying. But you saw me. Saw that I was outside. So to cheer me up you said something along the lines of “anything could happen ya know” and it helped. You brought me inside in that moment and I will always remember. Thank you.
Like an Op Ed with the context and thoughtfulness that should have been included.
Dang, but you’ve got to love this guy.
Brandon Big Heart.
That’s a name worthy of an adventure.
Thank you Brandon for your heart felt essay. I have been truly moved by your writings at times in my life where I deeply needed to feel seen and understood. Honestly, I never thought I would find that in a fantasy book series…until I started reading The Greats, Lewis, Tolkien, Jordan, and yes…Sanderson. The work you do goes beyond the pages, your journey and your works are deeply impactful and transformative. Thank you. 🙏🏽
I was struggling to not shed tears reading this. I love your prose, it’s beautiful and thanks to you I fell in love with fantasy. English is not my first lenguage, when I was 15 I moved to the US and many books were hard for me to read, I started with YA and made my way to more difficult books but epic fantasy was too hard for me until I read Mistborn and although there were many words I had to search in the dictionary I was able to read it (unlike many others) so I got into epic fantasy, it took one more year of reading in English to be able to read The Way of Kings but it was way more accessible that many books. I still struggle to read some epic fantasy (for some reason Robin Hobby’s books are easy for me, she’s my favorite after you). I am now 23 and The Way of Kings is still my favorite book, nothing comes close. You truly make me feel part of the fantasy community and your characters and prose surprise me all the time with how relatable it is, and how you totally put into words how emotions and experiences are. And this essay is the best thing I’ve read this year. Love you, love your books and love this essay!! And thanks for Kaladin and Dalinar.
I have written novels, I have sent them to agents across the Anglosphere. I have written short stories and sent them to magazines. I am 36 years old, full of stories, dozens of books that I want to get into people’s hands and heads. I want to see that before I die of old age.
But I’m still outside.
Absolutely beautiful. I’ve often felt similarly in that others have much more heightened emotional responses than I do, though I still *feel* just as much. I’m so glad you were able to share this with us.
From someone who lives under a totalitarian regime, thank you for your wonderful work, your books have often been the only relief I’ve had and they’ve more than once have inspired me to hope for a better tomorrow. Reading science fiction and fantasy is often the only escape I have from the realities of the place I live, and your books have always been one of the best ways for me to lower my stress and anxiety.
Great response. Like a lot of others . I can relate. =/
I read the wired article. And it read like a bully picking on a nerd. which is what it was. It was a very hard to read article, for me, probably you, and every other nerd who, as you say, was on the outside all the time. I’m constantly impressed that even with your money and fame, you still seem to remain grounded in reality. Maybe it’s your faith. Or your friends and family around you. I dunno…. but honestly this writer was desperately looking for the deep seeded turmoil somewhere in your life. Where is the cocaine addiction, the wife beating, the scarred abandoned children. In that way, I think the article was good. It revealed that sometimes people are just people. That maybe you are who you say you are.
Thank you for still being just a nerdy dude who writes great stories.
First off, this was beautiful. Worded and explained in such a beautiful way. It is interesting to me that as someone who has always felt on the exact opposite end of that spectrum, and feel as though I experience emotions exceptionally hard, I related to this. I loved books to experience different characters and their emotions and understand my own in doing so. It is funny how I have often romanticized the idea of not having strong emotional reactions to things and how it would be easier to live that way. Yet, here you are explaining that it is actually not very different. Thank you for all you do in your writing!
I first read your work because I was looking for fantasy books where the characters could use the magic system, rather than the magic system just being there to cause problems for the main characters. Something that simple seems like a no-brainer to include in a fantasy book, but so many others downplay the fantastical in their works because they’re afraid of getting accused of just publishing their own D&D fanfics (no joke- there’s a one-star review of Mistborn on Goodreads in which the reviewer literally says “Once the characters started discussing their plan on a chalkboard I realized ‘Oh, this is just someone’s D&D campaign'”). So when I found out that you were “the magic system guy”, I knew I would enjoy your books based on that fact alone. But I was unprepared for some of the most incredible stories I’ve ever experienced. The interviewer was so off-base on so many things, but to me, their biggest mistake was asking “Why fantasy?”. The real question is “Why anything else?”.
I have to tell you… In my life I had never read a book I wasn’t explicitly assigned through school. I was groomed into fundamentalist christianity and I was terrified about absorbing anything that wasn’t biblically vetted. I wouldn’t even read my textbooks in university since they were only “suggested reading”. Bookstores made me anxious and I had developed not just a distaste for reading, but a full phobia. I was always on the outside of what I deemed “regular human experiences” simply because I was forbidden from interacting honestly with the world. I was always trapped outside. At 23, I grew apart from my religious experiences and found your novels. I read Warbreaker since its length was easily digestible, even for an outsider like me. Time and again I am amazed by the incredible depth of your characters – their interactions, goals, and growth. Your worlds are fully immersive and simple to step into. Your characters have so many intricacies that have encouraged me to feel my own previously dormant feelings. Now at 33, I can’t imagine my life without finding the richness of your works… the openness, the inclusivity. Thank you, earnestly and from the bottom of my heart, for inviting me in.
I have alexithymia. It’s not “not having feelings,” tho clinicians do talk about it that way. They describe alexithymia from the perspective of someone without it. And since we with alexithymia are bad at talking about (or even noticing) our experience, clinicians are bad at reporting about us. It a whole situation.
Anyway, alexithymia can be experienced as a kind of social numbness, but that’s not the defining characteristic by a long shot. I’m extremely empathic but have trouble noticing my own discomfort including such basic things as hunger and thirst. I’ll wince when YOU get blood drawn, but won’t notice my own sore throat for weeks.
I’m not saying it’s what you have, I’m just saying you misunderstand it. No judgement or offense meant — almost no one understands it. But if you look into it more, you may be less sure about whether or not the term applies to you — not that a label matters or means you need to change, but it can offer new avenues to explore, something more to be curious about.
And since you have this big old platform, maybe you can help dispel this misconception that we don’t have feelings. We do! We just aren’t always as aware of them as most of y’all.
I used to feel ashamed when people asked my favorite book. “The Way of Kings,” I’d reply, inevitably waiting for their faces to twist in confusion. It got worse when I tried to pitch it. Where to even begin with the plot of that book? How can I capture someone’s attention on a book with three prologues? Then, I started listening more to you, not just the things you write. In interviews, podcasts, blog posts, you fight tirelessly for the right of people to enjoy things. In this post you capture why fantasy matters, cementing a fact no misguided Wired Article can dispel – your books mean the world to me.
Even if you treated your community like a heap of refuse I’d still follow your books maniacally. The fact that you give us more care than any other creator ensures that I don’t solely find belonging between the covers of a book, I find it out there in the wider world. Thank you.
That was beautiful. Thank you for sharing your story and thank you for bringing into this world, stories that bring ME inside.
Thank you ever so for you blog article.Much thanks again. Awesome.
This is a very interesting reason to write…to feel normally inaccessible emotions. What a wonder to know about.
Dear Brandon, Thank you for sharing your story. It resonates with me because I sometimes feel that I am on the outside and it hurts, but books (and specially yours) have give me a place to find peace an inspire me. As one who usually feels he is on the outside, thank you for giving me an inside in your books.
I think this may be the most beautiful thing Brandon has ever written. Thank you for this.
Itís hard to come by well-informed people in this particular topic, but you sound like you know what youíre talking about! Thanks
Brandon Sanderson, I acknowledge your feelings and emotions and also acknowledge how I pretty much do the same thing. My emotions aren’t exactly muted, but I rarely feel happiness on a scale that my friends and family do. ‘What’s wrong with you?’ a friend I will affectionately name Charlie asks when they just revealed that we’re going to be visiting Germany this season together. Nothing is ‘wrong’ with me, but perhaps something is ‘different’ with me. I don’t like being put in a box and having people tell me what I’m not. Unlike you, I’m terrible in most social situations. I’m not an introvert, but I just can’t be all of the faces people expect me to be. It’s incredibly tiring. Just because I don’t feel as much as you do doesn’t mean I’m depressed or apathetic. I feel pain and sadness and hurt and joy and happiness- just not for myself. I’ll wince and sometimes shed a tear at my brother’s pain from being stung, but I’ll neglect my own hunger on purpose. I sometimes think that maybe I am just that- depressed and apathetic. But the truth is I’m not, and I am struggling to find out who I am. There are many facets to a person, but I am having a hard time finding more then what I have already discovered. I love to read and read the entire Magic Tree House books in kindergarten and discovered a place where I can see things and feel things that I can’t really feel. Your books and stories are greater than anything I’ve read so far. Don’t let anyone stop you, Brandon. I truly appreciate everything you’ve done for me. I have discovered that writing my own fantasy stories are a great way to cope and enjoy myself. I hope to soon publish my first book, and cannot wait for Knights of Wind and Truth!
I haven’t been here a lot and stumbled across this today. I’m weeping reading this. Thank you SO much for sharing this very personal story. I’m standing outside at the moment afraid of the everstorm … I feel like I don’t want to go inside just yet and your story helped me to be okay with that. I can’t thank you enough but I’ll try anyway: THANK YOU! <3