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?

Others have said: Don’t sweat it. You can fix it later.

The beautiful part of writing is that you don’t have to get it right the 1st time unlike, say, brain surgery.

Robert Cormier

I’ve been creating stories since before I could write. At first I play-acted everything, but as I grew older, I started finding ways to put my thoughts onto a piece of paper.

The first time I tried to write something was a movie script that I started aged (about) eleven. By the time I was thirteen, I saw myself as seriously writing. I had started my first novel then.

One would think that I’d have a ton of finished manuscripts collecting dust beneath my bed. Terrible ones. Ones that make me cringe to think of. Ones that I aim at when I kick my shoes off.

But no. In the eight years from starting to write to Doorways, I didn’t finish a single manuscript. Not one. Now, this happened for a variety of reasons (that I posted about VERY early along when I started blogging), but as I came to the point of deciding that Doorways was to be the one that I finished, I decided to do some introspection.

What really stopped me from finishing before? Sure, the fact that my mother forgot to ask me before ripping the motherboard out of my writing computer (it happened) or the destroyed stiffy disk that contained the only copy of my draft (yes. stiffy. yes. It happened. After I rewrote the mother board ms), or the fact that I willingly burned a ms and everything connected to it (yes. Did that two years before I started the blog) had something to do with it.

But that wasn’t what stopped me. I mean, yes those put some significant delays on my writing. But eight years worth? Really?

The truth was no. The only person that held me back was me. See, although I don’t have a thing for rules, I was obsessed with getting everything I wrote up to my standards. Immediately.

So instead of worrying about getting done, I got mired in the early chapters of my WiPs, tinkering with every word I just wrote until it was exactly right.

In other words, I’d taken the soul out of what I’d written before it got a chance to settle into what it’s supposed to be.

When I realized what had happened, I’d decided to do a bit of a mind-shift. I didn’t have to get everything right immediately. In fact, there’s something to be said for working all the way through first before going back to measure what should be changed and what should stay the same.

Which is why I drafted Doorways by hand. If it’s written in pen, it can’t be change until I’m ready to go back to change it. And that is probably one reason why I got so far with it at all.

I gave Doorways a chance to prove to me that it was worth my time, instead of killing it before it was really born.

So what about you? Do you edit as you write or do you finish your drafts first?

Others have said: Just write.

Don’t get it right, just get it written.

James Thurber
If I had a cent for every new writer I find who is overwhelmed by all the “rules” and “prescribed methods” to good writing, I’d be on my way to Tuscany by now.
The Internet is a wonderful place, and the blogosphere a treasure trove of knowledge and advice on writing. I love it. But I was lucky. I had too much of a confidence in my own abilities to be overwhelmed.
Why? Because I’ve written for about eight years before I decided to take the plunge and start a writing blog. So by the time I started nosing around the blogs, I already knew what worked for me and what didn’t. I already knew where my writing needed help.
I knew that if I had conflicting pieces of advice, that I’d be able to pick the one that works best with me and the way that I write.
But note the words: FOR ME.
If everyone writes according to the way that works best for them, is there really a right  way to write?
Short answer: No. The only way to write is your way.
Sure, you can take advice. If it works for you. You can deviate from the “rules”, if you’re willing to stand firm in the belief that you did the right thing.
Writing isn’t about writing to a set form. If it was, every book would be the same. Who’d want that? Especially if it’s a book you wouldn’t like?
So, while it is excellent to see what options are out there (and I’ve seen some brilliant suggestions that I never would have thought about), don’t sacrifice your own writer’s identity in order to implement them.
Forget about being right. Get that story written, by any means possible.
What’s your favorite writing “rule” or “best practice” to break?

Others have said: Life can suck, but can’t defeat us.

Edna Ferber

Life can’t ever really defeat a writer who is in love with writing, for life itself is a writer’s lover until death – fascinating, cruel, lavish, warm, cold, treacherous, constant.

Edna Ferber, A Kind of Magic, 1963

I am willing to say this now. Compared to 90% of my life thus far, 2011 sucked. Big time.

This isn’t going to be a moaning and groaning sort of post, but suffice it to say that I’ve been thwarted, frustrated, scared, terrified, down, stuck, set adrift, disappointed, lifted to soaring heights only to be dropped at the worst possible moment.

I’ve been told I’m too overqualified, underqualified, inexperienced, deluded, irresponsible when I was only being different, wrong.

I’ve been forced to play the waiting game more times than I even want to count.

In 2011, I was also probably the happiest I’ve been in years. Because I dug deep and really got to know myself. I know now that I have a reserve of strength that I’d thought had been lost three years ago.

Also, I got to write almost every day that I wanted to. And that helped. Because with every day that I wrote, I could take a step back from my life and see where I was and that, suck as it might, life wasn’t big enough to squash me.

I could keep going and because of that, I’m much stronger and (theoretically) more patient. And relaxed, because the added perspective showed me some things about myself that helped me to deal with a lot of nonsense that I’ve been carrying about for years.

So yes. Life was my lover last year, even if he was a pain in the ass. He taught me a lot. And I can’t wait to see where he leads me this year.

How is your life treating you? What did you learn last year?