What a rookie writer learned from Neil Gaiman at BEA 2013

I recently had the pleasure of attending the 2013 BookExpo America in New York City.  Amongst the myriad of awesome presenters there, I was looking forward to Neil Gaiman’s talk, which was really more of a discussion with aspiring authors and rookie writers.  Gaiman has been a favorite of mine for a while and his now famous 2012 University of the Arts commencement speech, “Make good art” has consistently been an inspiration for me.

Neil Gaiman answering questions at BEA

From Rookie Writer to Pro Author

Gaiman dove into the crazy world of how he became a writer. His stories made it clear that this wildly successful author had gone through many of the same trials that rookie writers and amateur author’s experience.  He never set out to become a world-renowned author, rather he had always shared a love for reading and a passion for story-telling; perhaps the two greatest ingredients for a writer.

From the stories he told, I snagged a few tidbits of commonality that hopefully are beneficial for all aspiring authors:

  • An insatiable hunger for reading is a writer’s best asset.
  • On why fiction is dangerous: Fiction is dangerous because it lets you into other peoples heads and gives you empathy and shows you that the world doesn’t have to be like the one you live in…Letting people into other people’s heads is amazing and incredibly dangerous.
  • On how to handle rejection or failure: Two different things play out…I get things back and I’m either not good, which I do not choose to believe, or I’m just doing this wrong.  I vowed to myself to try to write things that no one could reject.  
  • With 30 years of success, is there still doubt: Yes, and it hasn’t been 30 years of success. There have been things that have worked and things that haven’t.  Authors are combinations of complete arrogance and self-doubt.

I wanted to share these four points to spark thoughts, or even to provide a since of camaraderie that you are not alone as you work to create your next piece. What have you learned in your time as a writer? Please share your tips below! You may inspire a fellow writer.

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