While my work computer suffers from a brain hemorrhage (is that spelled right?), I’m going to take the opportunity, rare for me any more, to sit and ramble about a topic that’s been on my mind lately. And I’m going to start with what may be the most puffed-up, hubristic (is that a real word?) thing I’ve ever said:
I think I’m as good a writer as Neil Gaiman.
Not always; I mean, when I’m having a good day and he’s having a bad one, that kind of thing. The point is, in terms of my quality of prose, I’m in his league.
But of course, he’s a famous, respected, professional author who makes a living (and one assumes a pretty good one) with his craft, whereas I’m this guy on the internet, y’know? So what’s the difference?
My theory, at least at the moment, is volume. Neil Gaiman writes a metric buttload of stuff, all the time, and he sells it to anybody and everybody willing to pay. The sun comes up, he sneezes out a short story and sells it to some magazine, then he works on a novel for a few hours, goes to lunch and finds a Doctor Who script in his back pocket he’s been meaning to send off, then comes back home and works on his Ted talk.
He’s creating, all the time. He’s always got more stories to tell. This is where I break down.
I don’t feel like I’ve got lots of stories to tell. I’ve talked before about having tons of characters and settings but no plot: this is what I mean. This is the giant broken part of my writing craft that I’ve struggled with since forever. I’m working right now on a story idea that should flow from me like a rushing river, as it combines many things that I love dearly. Think “Jeeves, Wooster, and horrible monsters,” and you’ll get a glimmering of the notion. I should be all over that, right?
I’m not. I have no idea what happens. The characters are sitting around a table staring at me, waiting for me to tell them what to do. I keep shouting at them, “How should I know? Telling me what you do is your job!” and they just keep on staring.
This is why Neil is Neil, and I’m me.
But writing and making art is what I’m here for; one of the reasons I’ve been so horribly depressed lately is that I’m not doing what it is I’m supposed to do. (Pony fans: insert a reference to ‘What My Cutie Mark Is Telling Me’ here. ‘cos I ain’t gonna do it. ;P) So if the difference between Neil Gaiman and me is volume, volume, volume, that means I need to start creating more. Anything more.
To that end, I’ve been instituting a “make something every day” policy. It doesn’t have to be a finished piece every day (and in fact, there’s no way I could do that kind of volume in the 15-45 minute increments I’ve got to work with), but it has to be some kind of progress. Obviously, more is better, but as little as a sketch or a paragraph counts. The key is that no day goes by without at least a tiny dot on the progress bar.
I think there have been results already: yesterday’s Fictionlet (the first in months) was well-received, I’ve got the beginnings of an art piece that I’m looking forward to seeing the end of, and some creative thoughts regarding my new comic idea have bubbled to the surface.
It’s agonizing, glacially-slow progress, but even that is more than the no progress I was making, say, this time last month. Here’s hoping that it snowballs.
I’m halfway through my life. I don’t have time to “hope for better things in the future” any more. I’m in my future. If it doesn’t get better now, it’s not going to.