Neil Gaiman: Maintaining Discipline In Your Writing

Neil Gaiman is known as one of the most creative writers of modern culture. However like many other authors, Gaiman experiences creative hurtles and writer’s block. For Gaiman, breaking through these challenges and establishing a stable writing process is contingent on determination.

In an interview with Nerdist Podcast, Gaiman discussed how he breaks through writer’s block.

“For me, it’s always been a process of trying to convince myself that what I’m doing in a first draft isn’t important. One way you get through the wall is by convincing yourself that it doesn’t matter. No one is ever going to see your first draft. Nobody cares about your first draft. And that’s the thing that you may be agonizing over, but honestly, whatever you’re doing can be fixed. …For now, just get the words out. Get the story down however you can get it down, then fix it.”

Gaiman encourages writers to write when they don’t feel inspiration and to push through when it comes to writing scenes that don’t inspire them. Gaiman encourages writers to utilize their creativity and passion for writing, but to have the discipline to finish whatever it is they’re working on.

“You have to finish things,” Gaiman says. “You learn by finishing things.”

Writing is often viewed as an elusive, whimsical talent, but it is really the act of committing to an idea and pursuing it with consistency.

As Gaiman says, “The process of writing can be magical. … Mostly it’s a process of putting one word after another.”


2 thoughts on “Neil Gaiman: Maintaining Discipline In Your Writing

  1. jesslangone March 14, 2015 / 3:16 am

    I think the concept of finishing what you start is an old one, but it is still relevant. It is difficult as a writer to know when you have finished a piece, but I think Gaiman’s advice is sound. I know I have a lot of drafts that are not where I want them to be, but I have gotten into the process of finishing them.

    With different types of writing, this advice changes though. With Fiction, it means when the story is done. With other writing, scientific articles, travel journals, etc, this advice means when the message is fully developed.

    I do think in these instances finishing the piece is a different beast, since with fiction if you have writers block it is normally because you don’t know where the story is going next.


  2. courtneycalderon March 14, 2015 / 8:12 pm

    Overcoming writer’s block is such a hard beast to conquer. That blinking bar on a blank Word document is one of the most frustrating sights. While I do think it takes determination, I also think it takes knowing when a story needs changing or scrapping altogether. Sometimes, the cause of writer’s block is just that your piece is not what it should be. Whether that means you go in a different direction or scrap it and start over, it’s important you consider your options.

    There have been plenty of stories/articles that I’ve started writing and thought, “You know what? This is crazy bad,” and then I delete it and start again. Does that mean I gave up and didn’t maintain discipline? Yes, probably, but I think it’s pretty worth it sometimes.


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