Others Have Said: Make. Good. Art.

Today’s Others Have Said post is a bit different. Because the person doing the talking will be Neil Gaiman and far be it from me to think that I can write anything better than what he said in this speech. It’s a bit long, but don’t miss it.

I found it incredibly inspirational, both as a writer and as a person.

What are your thoughts?

Others have said: Unsought thoughts mean the most.

Write down the thoughts of the moment. Those that come unsought for are commonly the most valuable. 

Francis Bacon

Sometimes we spend hours in front of blank pages, searching and searching for the right thing to write. And then once we wrote what we’ve thought of, we’re critical. Some of us tend to spend hours editing and changing every. single. thing. we’ve written.

I know I do, if I don’t watch my internal editor like a hawk.

But here’s the thing. Those thoughts and ideas that I actively go looking for always have something lacking in them. Which is why I edit the writing that comes from those thoughts to death.

There are other thoughts and ideas, though. Unbidden ones. If I spend too much time on thinking when I write, those ideas are rare. Or maybe they pop up as often as always, but they’re drowned out in all of my forced thoughts.

Those jewels appear, seemingly out of the ether. They’re the ones that are the miracle cures of writing. More often than not, they’re brilliant. All of my original inspirations, plot problem solutions etc. come from unbidden thoughts.

I could be wrong, but from my own experience, unbidden thoughts and ideas come from the subconscious, after my mind has taken into account more aspects than I could even have thought of and untangled the mess. The result therefore is more complex than the one I consciously could have thought of and yet simple to apply.

And usually, it solves more than just the issue that got me thinking in the first place.

Because of this, I never worry about a writer’s block. It’s just my mind working out some issues in the story that I haven’t even perceived.

It’s also the reason why I zone out when I write. I don’t want to consciously decide what I’m writing. Because those conscious decisions have led me astray time and time again. To me, conscious decisions are for revisions and edits.

They have no real place in my creative process. Which is why I always refer to my muse, or to my characters making the calls. I don’t really believe in muses. But for me to write, I have to keep my writing mind (one dependent on unbidden thoughts) as far from my conscious mind as possible.

Without that, I would never have been able to create something as complex as the Doorways series.

While writing, do you consciously decide what you’re going to write? Or do you also try to disconnect your thoughts as far as possible?

Others have said: There are Rules


Do not put statements in the negative form.
And don’t start sentences with a conjunction.
If you reread your work, you will find on rereading that a
great deal of repetition can be avoided by rereading and editing.
Never use a long word when a diminutive one will do.
Unqualified superlatives are the worst of all.
De-accession euphemisms.
If any word is improper at the end of a sentence, a linking verb is.
Avoid trendy locutions that sound flaky.
Last, but not least, avoid cliches like the plague.

William Safire, Great Rules of Writing

And yet, I’m breaking the rules now. And I do it often. VERY. Often. It just works for me, because conciously breaking certain rules change the feel of what has been written.

I am, however, very finicky about what I perceive to be errors. People breaking rules per accident. It just stands out more and degrades the quality.

So… what’s your favorite writing rule to break on purpose?  

Others have said: It comes to you when you need it.

Nancy Werlin

I have come to understand there are no coincidences in writing; the information you need comes to you when you are ready to receive it.

 Nancy Werlin

Sometimes, I get so frustrated. I make time to write. Hell. I wake up at 3 a.m in the morning to write. I take out my pen and notebook. I open it full of anticipation to FINALLY have a chance to get some writing done.



Not a whisper. My muse decided she’s taking a holiday in Hawaii without me.

It makes me want to scream. Because here I am. Wanting to write. Ready to write. But the words aren’t there. Because I don’t know what I’m supposed to be writing.

I used to go into a flat spin because OMG I’m having a writer’s block. But it’s not really true. It’s just my muse taking a break to sort out what she wants to happen.

Or if you don’t like such fanciful words, it’s my mind sorting out the spaghetti that’s my story and plot ideas. If I don’t give it time, there’s no way to know where I’m supposed to go.

So once my mind/muse is ready to deal with whatever happens next, I’ll know what to write. In the mean time, I can just chill… Maybe even catch up on my blogging.

Do you ever find that information you need to write comes through exactly the way you need it, when you really need it? What do you do while you wait?

Others have said: Writing is more than work.

Writing is a job, a talent, but it’s also the place to go in your head. It is the imaginary friend you drink your tea with in the afternoon.

Ann Patchett (Truth and Beauty: A Friendship)

I sometimes forget how privileged I am to have the talent to write.  It’s just that, with my time now so severely constrained, I feel like I have to use every free moment that I have to write. Those two words “have to” become a problem to me. Because they turn writing into work. A chore.

While writing does take some heavy commitment in order to achieve something with it, I don’t think it’s supposed to become a chore most of the time I write.

Rather, I need to focus on the fact that writing is my friend too. Writing always listens when I want to rant, or when I’m sad. It celebrates with me when I’m happy.

I miss writing when I don’t spend time on it for a while. But like most friends, I get a little tired if I force myself to be with it all the time. Sometimes, although writing might be my sanity’s saviour, I need to see other friends too.

But the fact remains that when I’m not writing, I feel trapped in my life. As if I can’t breathe. Writing frees me.

I need to remember that the next time writing starts to feel like a chore.

Do you sometimes feel as if writing is a chore/too much work? How do you remind yourself of why you write?

Others have said: You are not alone.

Every writer I know has trouble writing.

Joseph Heller
So good to know that I’m not alone in this. See, after weeks of doing almost nothing writing related, I feel the need to come back to it, except for when I have the notebook or document open in front of me.
It just feels as if the words don’t want to come.
Needless to say, it’s frustrating, but I guess that’s what happens if you want to take some lazy time.
It’s just so annoying, because for the most of a year, I never struggled. But that’s the way it goes. I had my break. Now it’s time to ease into my routine again. Gently.
What do you do when you’re out of your writing/editing groove? 

Others have said: Writing takes passion.

Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depth of your heart; confess to yourself you would have to die if you were forbidden to write. 

Rainer Maria Rilke

There are few things that I consider to be rules in writing. As far as I can see, any method goes, as long as one gets the work written. And that’s why I consider this to be a rule, because without it, I don’t think someone can finish a project.

My rule: One must have passion for writing.

I’m sure that a lot of non-writers will look at the rule and think that I’m stupid. After all, anyone can write anything down. At any moment. That’s probably why so few people understand the challenges involved in writing a story. So many people write (correspondence, statements, reports etc.) that they think that all writing is as easy. It isn’t.

On the contrary, it’s damnably hard more often than not. And NOTHING prepares you for the challenges of writing a novel, except for writing a novel. Because, while most people write more than 50k words in e-mails etc. in (say) a few months, it isn’t meant to be read as a single understandable story. There’s no need to develop a thrilling plot, there’s no need to create and get to know characters. There’s no need to stick with the exact same story for as long as it takes to finish it.

Writing is full of challenges, rejections and other obstacles. It takes sacrifice. Especially of time. Writing isn’t something to do in a few weeks without noticing. It’s something that needs to be prioritized.

So many people say that they want to write but don’t have time… Well, I can safely say that none of us writers have time. We make it. We put writing way up there on our lists of priorities, with family, God and breathing.

If it wasn’t for that commitment, no story would ever be finished.

Anyone disagree with me? Why or why not? How high is writing on your list of priorities? Do you find that a shift or writing up or down your priority list influences your writing?