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No One Can Stop You

Page history last edited by PBworks 17 years ago

No One Can Stop You From Writing:


A couple of interesting questions on Neil Gaiman's blog--interesting because it involves a skewed way of thinking that I see a lot:


1. Hi Neil, I just got rejected from a creative writing class at my college and wanted to know--has this, or anything similar, ever happened to you? I have this rather strong conviction that I am a writer, but if I can't so much as make it into a class, I'm not sure if I've got much hope of ever being published.


2. Anyway, with my writing, it's just seemed like one thing after another, and I have no one to give me input on any of it since I, quite literally, come from a family of engineers, all very concrete thinkers. My question is this: when do you just give up? I don't want to but it seems like the only logical thing to do. I'm so tired and frustrated with being deemed a failure. The one week I was actually able to give up writing was the most miserable week of my life.


Here's the thing, the thing that I think a lot of people (including me) often forget in their mad rush towards publication, validation, and hopefully filthy riches: No one can stop you from writing. If you have paper or a keyboard, you are in business. And if you want to write, you should write, and you should write for yourself, the things that you want to read and the stories that you want to tell, no matter what anyone else wants or tells you. Yes, there is a point in the crafting of a narrative where you do have to start taking an audience's needs into account, but if you're not writing for yourself first, because you want to and you need to, I'm not sure what the point is. If you say only, "I want to be a writer," rather than "I want to write," you're very likely doomed. There is no be, as it were--there is only do, and then you are. Getting into a class is only important if you need it for a degree; you can look for constructive criticism elsewhere (although yes, workshop classes can be helpful. But being kept out of one is not a death sentence). If you are not willing to toil in obscurity, to keep writing because you just love words and story that much, it may be time for you to quit anyway. So stop worrying about if you are a writer and who will let you be a writer and just sit down and write. And eventually you will write something that sticks with other people.


Trust me, I say this as someone who has been writing for more than twenty years (I think my first story was about a bunch of worms trying to escape a bait can. No, I have no idea where I got this from. I was six, and it was about ten sentences), and has written a lot of crap. I mean a lot of crap. Entire novels full of crap; reams of crap revised sixteen times over and diligently printed out and sent to embarrassingly large publishing houses and returned with polite form rejections. I think I just got started a lot earlier than most people, so I got most of my crap out of the way sooner. And I never doubted for one second that I was a writer, because it was all I could think about doing. By the time I was in second, third, fourth grade, I had this thing I liked to do where I'd write out my stories on notebook paper (college rule more closely approximated the look of lines in a real book than wide rule) and insert illustrations on typing paper and put them in a three-brad folder and paste an illustrated sheet of typing paper on the front, like a book cover. The folders with pockets were handy, because you could put the rough drafts in there. Granted, I used a lot of books I read as training wheels--half my stories inevitably sounded a lot like real books, only with the names changed and new! different! adventures. When you're eight and working in crayon, you can do that. And fortunately, I had the good sense, or the shame, or something, to branch further and further away from actual theft as I grew older. And I did write stories that were wholly my own as well. And I never doubted that I was a writer because it's what I did, not something people told me I could or could not be. There are things I have worked on for years upon years that no one's ever seen because I didn't think they were ready yet--they hadn't moved beyond the stage of pleasure-writing yet. And if you're not writing for pleasure, and then releasing the stories that become good enough into the wild, I don't know how you're going to hack the frustrations along the way.


Not that anyone asked me, of course.


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