Saturday, June 15, 2013

Neil Gaiman on Writing and Werewolf Goldfish

 I apologize now for all the air quotes that I will be using in this post.

I was getting a tad bit irritated today. I'm sure friends and family are going to claim that I may have called them and ranted at length about the state of writing and the advice that is out there for writers. I'm sure they'd even go so far as to say that I was shrieking at them. I find that the people in my life over exaggerate.

In the past week, I have listened to countless writing podcasts and have read interviews with people who have boiled it down to a list of bullet points on what an aspiring writer should do, not to get published, but to write a book. Now, that sentence alone makes me want to rebel in the worst way. If you are sitting back and wondering how to write a book I don't think you should be writing a book. Now, I'm not talking about sitting back and wondering how to get published or how to work through writers block or if you should even attempt to write something. I think everyone who writes goes through those questions. I'm talking about the actual writing process. It is not a thing you can Google nor is it something that you can obtain from a handout sheet. Just because there are handy little formatted guides out there, it doesn't mean they hold the magical answers that fill your brain with the knowledge of how to write a book. They probably aren't very specific on where you should start, what your characters should do, or if you are even doing this writing thing 'correctly'. If those are your questions, and I mean this in the nicest way, I'm thinking its time to look for another hobby. If you don't embrace the answer 'just write' then you are going to struggle relentlessly over something that you probably don't have much of a passion for to begin with.

Apparently, I am alone in thinking this, however, since there are countless 'how to' blogs out there and podcasts, all giving step by step instructions on how to write a novel.

I then became a bit more agitated over the answers that were given when it became apparent that, according to some, there is a formulaic, fill in the blanks process that apparently can be used as a template for 'aspiring writers'. Then, the podcasts I was listening to, told very generic stories of how to gain inspiration in order to fill in those blanks on the mad libs sheet of writing. As I was listening and reading to all of this, one thing kept crossing my mind.

I have never done any of that.

Which of course promptly sent me on some sort of existential crisis where I doubted myself as a writer and wondered if I had been doing it wrong all these years and if this was a pipe dream bla bla bla. Then I found this.

 Thank whoever is out there, for Neil Gaiman.

Inspiration is not something that you can find on a Google search engine (well, you can but it's usually a fluke). Where do I find my inspiration is not a question that can be answered by someone that isn't you. These writing tips and these idea's of story boarding are alright, I suppose. While I don't particularly use them, I can see how they could be helpful for a jumping off point. But here's the thing. When you are inspired, you are inspired. You want to create. You want to write. Inspiration rarely comes from a rigid plan or a bullet point that was listed in a blog or podcast by someone who has already gone through the process.

Gaiman mentions in his video that inspiration happens to everyone. Writers just tend to take a bit more notice of it. This holds true. Inspiration is a jumbled mess of random thoughts that seem to always happen when you least expect it. It isn't something you can create by following a formula. I think that's what irritated me. The idea that you can become a successful writer with enough Google searches and by following AB and C not only takes the respect out of writing for people who have a genuine talent, but takes some of the mysticism out of it as well. Now, I'm not saying this process has never worked before but I think that this type of writing process gets old fast and it loses some of the very essence of what makes writing good.

My opinion (which may not work for you) is to write. Go into your story not knowing how it's going to end or what your characters are going to do in relation to the plot. Let them tell you. Let yourself learn your story and become excited about it like a reader would. Be a fan of your own work because if you're not a fan of your writing, you cannot ask anyone else to be either.

Neil Gaiman, thank you for soothing my writing woes and using werewolf goldfish to do so. Bless you, sir. Bless you.

Disagree with me? Want to point out something that I missed because I tend to get overly ranty in moments like this and pass over key points or contradict myself? Comment or message me. :)

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