I am thinking tonight of a year ago, when Sarah and Henry and I were preparing to leave for Amsterdam, huge swaths of the book that would become TFiOS still either unwritten or horrible (and still without a title).
I was sick, and I was also overwhelmed with anxiety, all these constant humming fears: You’re going to die. You won’t finish this book and they’ll have to push back the pub date again. Or you will finish it, but everyone will hate it because it’s a cruel and exploitative book. Your stomach hurts because you have cancer. You will run out of money. etc.
We went to Amsterdam. I got sicker. (Only several months later did it become clear that my gallbladder needed removing.) I also became more and more paralyzed by fear, which generally does not make for great writing. Or any writing, for that matter.
And yet, I wrote. Certainly, my family was insanely supportive—like, impossibly supportive. My editor guided me through with patience and faith and never mentioned how much of both our careers was staked on the book. I also think the memory of Esther made me keep going.
But I don’t think I would have ever finished The Fault in Our Stars without nerdfighteria. The Dutch nerdfighter community, which has been strong since Tobias was making Hank’s songs into mp3s back in 2007, cheered me on during my months in the Netherlands. But more broadly, nerdfighters offered tremendous inspiration without intending to do so. People say the Internet is a distraction, and it certainly can be, but every day, I saw tweets and emails and YouTube comments and tumblr posts that helped me work. (That’s still true.)
The messages could be about most anything: pennies or Syria or friends or books or love. But what I saw, and what I see so often in nerdfighteria, was people trying to focus outward, trying to imagine others complexly, doing the hard daily work of paying sustained attention to the big and small stories around them. Seeing that, every day, pulled me out of myself enough to finish the book. You showed me how to write, even in pain, and even amid fear.
So I guess all I want to say is thank you for that.
this post was so great. you’re so great, john. nerdfighteria, you’re also so fantastic. I am now going to make myself some toast.
but before I do, I can’t miss an opportunity to say: