Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Simple Act of Writing

Well, you never achieve everything you wanted to. It's the simple act of writing. You begin with a platonic ideal that is a shimmering tower carved out of pure diamond, that is this perfect thing that stands there unfouled by gravity and the weather. And, then, the thing that you build is this thing that you have to build out of whatever is at hand and you use empty sushi boxes and chairs and get friends to hold it up and try to make it look like it's standing. And at the end of it, people look at it and they say, "It's amazing." And you say, "Yes, but if only I could have done the thing that is in my head."

--Neil Gaiman, Hanging Out with the Dream King, Conversations with Neil Gaiman and His Collaborators.

This quote was Neil's answer to whether he had achieved everything he wanted to with The Sandman. And I love what he says for so many reasons.

I recently went to a local NaNo Write In, and one of the women talked about how she's scared try to write because she's scared her writing won't be perfect. That drive towards perfection is something that immobilizes a lot of people I know. It's why NaNo can be good--it unfreezes writers because first drafts aren't perfect. Can't be perfect. It's the simple act of writing.

I love how Neil attributes his friends as the ones who holds up his works. You just can't do it without friends. It's the simple act of writing.

And I absolutely love his description of an idea--"...a shimmering tower carved out of pure diamond...this perfect thing that stands there, unfouled by gravity." I love the implication that once an idea is introduced to the real world--taken out of the mind--then it is marred by gravity. By the weather. That we lack raw idea material--pure diamond. That we have to use what is at hand to mold our idea. The simple act of writing.

I've never felt as though writing was simple. But if I sit down at my computer or with pen and paper with an idea in my head, then I write. And maybe it is. The simple act of writing.


  1. Wow, I love that quote. So much to think about...

  2. That's a great quote! My writing ideas always feel so pure when I'm out on a run and then gravity sets in when I sit down to actually write!

  3. I'm glad this quote spoke to you all.

    Paul--I experience the same phenomenon. My writing is best in my head on a run. Trying to translate that into reality and words is difficult.

  4. Awesome quote, Heather! Thank you for pointing me to your post. I have to agree. My ideas are always shiny and pure in my mind but get so muddled as I try to get them out.

    Neil is an all around amazing fellow. Always inspiring.