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A Year of Yes: How Neil Gaiman changed the way I write in one minute

“I’m not an outliner or someone who free writes. I’m more of a gardener. I plant seeds and I see what grows. I plant pumpkins and I expect a pumpkin. But if I get a tomato, I’ll figure out what to do with that. That’s how I write. I love that magic moment when something happens on the page we’re writing that we didn’t know was going to happen. I get to be the first reader of my work, and it’s very exciting. And quite frankly that magic doesn’t happen often enough. A lot of writing is just laying brick.” ~Neil Gaiman, International Literary Festival in Dublin, May 2018

By an amazing stroke of luck, Neil Gaiman was speaking as the headliner at the International Literary Festival in Dublin while I was there doing research for my next novel this week. He’s one of my favorite writers, an inspiration for my own work, and to see him in person was thrilling.

Of all the beautiful advice he offered (and you can see my tweets from his talk here: https://twitter.com/i/moments/1002678622765887488), this quote above is the one that affected me the most because it made me change the way I think about my own writing.

I’m a planner. If I were to self-analyze, I would say I like plans because I grew up with a lot of instability. I like order and organization of my tasks because I like to know what I’m doing and where I’m going, and I absolutely hate wasting time because I know what a precious and finite a resource time is. I can’t imagine a world in which I completely let that go. However, Neil Gaiman made me realize that maybe, perhaps, I can loosen the reins a bit. I certainly allow for new information and imagination in my writing. I’ve absolutely had moments where new characters and circumstances and obstacles show up that I never saw coming. That’s the fun, the magic, of writing.

But maybe I don’t need the next bit figured out before I sit down to write every single time. It’s at least worth trying, and giving something a try is where everything begins.

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