Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Neil Gaiman speaks to (and for) us

On the off chance any writer out there has missed this wonderful speech by Neil Gaiman, here is is:


The speech is about 20 minutes long. It's worth listening to the end. This is a reminder of what writing is about and the joy of what we're doing.

This is also the kind of wonderful speech that should make you feel good about being a writer. Gaiman is fun and uplifting and his words are both for the class he addresses and for the authors like me who are still out there feeling our way around and testing the ground.

And making mistakes. I have often said I've learned more from the stories that gave me problems than I have from the easy stories. I learn from my mistakes by finding out what went wrong and changing the story to something I want to tell. The changes don't always work. Of course there are stories that will never leave my house, too. However, I don't give up at the first chance and leap to something else without ever trying to fix the mistakes and learn what when wrong so I don't do it again in the next story.

There is a lot to consider in this speech. I've listened to it twice and intend to go back and listen again soon. I keep thinking about all the writers I've met who insist on making every bit of their work as difficult and painful as they can, and by doing so, rarely finish anything and never really make much progress. They aren't happy in their work, even when they are creating truly moving, gorgeous passages and sometimes moving and powerful stories. At best, many of them are relieved to be done with the work.

I will not make writing work. That doesn't mean I shun away from the difficult parts or don't pound my head against the wall when a scene doesn't fall into place properly. I rewrite, edit, sometimes strip stories back to outlines and start over -- and rewrite and edit again. I keep working until I get something I am proud to show to others. I would love to say the stories are perfect, but I know better. I hope future stories will bet closer to perfection. All writers do and keep writing reaching for the story they can connect with in ways that will make it easier for the reader to connect as well.

My writing has certainly changed for the better because I am willing to experiment and make mistakes and learn.

Another aspect of this speech is the reminder that writing is art. Writers face a problem with acceptance because so many people assume that because writing is just words any of them could write novels, too, if they just wanted to. We all use words. It's not like learning how to paint, right?

But it is. Far more difficult to get that visual of the scene into words than it would be to paint it, if you had that skill. And worse, you are not doing a still life portrait. Your scenes and people will move and change and you have to rewrite everything every paragraph and keep the reader moving as well.

It is not just words.

So go out there and get enthusiastic about your work. Have fun. Be yourself.

1 comment:

Chris said...

wasn't that awesome! i shared it on facebook a day or two ago. i wish i could download it and listen over and over.