I am writing this just after getting home from meeting one of my all-time favorite authors: Neil Gaiman. It was an absolutely amazing night! I wasn’t aware that he’s retiring from public life (at least for the time being), and I am so glad I was able to attend his final event. I thought actually meeting Neil and getting a picture with him would be the highlight of my night. But really, it was hearing him speak.
If you haven’t had the pleasure of listening to Neil Gaiman speak, either in person or online, you are really missing out. He is articulate and poignant and funny and intelligent and a bunch of other great things. He started out the night with a (true) story in which Harlan Ellison got a mailman fired when he sent a dead gopher to his publishing company while they were having a disagreement. He read a few stories from Trigger Warning, which was great, since I hadn’t read it yet. Though now I’m even more motivated to pick it up because those three stories were so good.
During the Q&A portion of the evening, Gaiman answered a question from a twelve-year-old: what advice to you have for young writers. And his answer was really amazing. I am not even going to attempt to write it down, because as much as I tried to remember it word for word, I know I’ll get it wrong. But, as part of his answer, he said something to the effect of “You can learn more by finishing the things that you don’t think are good than you ever will by finishing the things that are great.” Currently, I am struggling to finish the novel I started for National Novel Writing Month. The past few days, I’ve been toying with the thought of giving up. But Gaiman made an excellent point tonight when he said his lowest point of self-doubt was when he asked himself: “I call myself a writer. But am I lying?” Would I rather look back on my life and say “I could have been a writer, but I didn’t try” or “I didn’t succeed at being a writer, but at least I gave it a shot”?
I always say Neil Gaiman is one of my favorite authors. I absolutely love his writing and the stories he comes up with are pure genius. Hell, when we were taking a picture together, the lady taking the picture said, “it’s a lot of black,” since we were both wearing all black, and Gaiman responded with, “we are a symphony in black.” I feel like beautiful sentences are just easy for him. But I think what I love about him the most is how inspiring he is. When I’m feeling uninspired or when I start to doubt myself, I read a few of Gaiman’s quotes on writing, or one of his short stories, or watch his “Make Good Art” speech, and it always makes me feel better. Tonight was definitely one of the highlights of my life as an aspiring writer, and I hope I don’t forget how amazing it made me feel. About myself, about the world, and, most of all, about writing.
This is how you do it: you sit down at the keyboard and you put one word after another until its done. It’s that easy, and that hard. – Neil Gaiman