Writing Tips from YA Authors-Neil Gaiman (with bonus Steve Jobs)

Sometimes we all get a little tired and frustrated. We’re overworked, tired, cranky, whatever, and it can be hard to remember why what we do is important. That’s why I like to keep quotes around me for inspiration, and today I thought I might share a few of them with you.

The first two are from Neil Gaiman, an author whose range and talent I find astounding. He writes bestselling books (everything from picture books, to middle grade to adult), wins prestigious awards (The Graveyard Book won the Newbery). Then there are the comics (Sandman, anyone?), the screenplays (both movies and TV — if you like Doctor Who at all, you should watch “The Doctor’s Wife”), his huge online presence, and he’s even started writing music with his wife, Amanda Palmer. He also gives good speeches. His 2012 commencement address at the Philadelphia University of the Arts is particularly wonderful. Designer Chip Kidd has even made it into a book. You really should read the whole speech, but to me, the key takeaway is this quote:

“Life is sometimes hard. Things go wrong, in life and in love and in business and in friendship and in health and in all the other ways that life can go wrong. And when things get tough, this is what you should do. Make good art…Do what only you do best. Make good art.”

I actually have a Zen Pencils print of it hanging on my wall.

Then there was his BEA speech this year, entitled “Why Fiction is Dangerous.” While most of it seemed to be understandably focused on his new books, there was one passage that really stood out in all the reports:

“Fiction is dangerous because it lets you into other people’s heads,” Gaiman said. “It shows you that the world doesn’t have to be like the one you live in.” At the first nationally recognized science fiction convention in China in 2007, Gaiman took a party official aside and said, “While not actually illegal, science fiction is regarded as dangerous and subversive in China. Why did you say yes to a science-fiction convention?” The party official answered, “In China, we’re really good at making things people bring to us, but we don’t invent, we don’t innovate.” When Chinese party officials visited Google, Apple and Microsoft, they asked what the executives read as children. The official continued: “They all said, ‘We read science fiction. The world doesn’t have to be the way it is right now. We can change it.’ ” “That,” said Gaiman, “is the big dangerous thing.”

And finally, I’ve always loved the text from Steve Jobs’s “Think Different” Apple commercials:

Holly W - Writing Tips-Neil Gaiman


What things give you inspiration on the bad days? Are there any other quotes I should paste up on my walls?

— by Holly West

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