Thursday, December 20, 2007

Advice from Neil Gaiman

A month since my last post. Apologies for the dearth of posting. With the WGA strike shutting down Hollywood (and thus no movement on the Lost Squad movie) and my real job sucking most of my time (and thus not a lot of movement on new projects), there hasn't been much news or tidbits to post.

So, allow me to ramble a bit...

I was talking with a friend a week or so ago and he asked me when it was I knew that I could write. When had I received validation that my stuff was good or entertaining (or, at least, didn't suck)? I'm my own worst critic when it comes to my stuff and I have HUGE bouts of self-doubt every time I sit at the keyboard. Writing is hard for me and when I first started noodling with short stories and short comic scripts I found the self-doubt to be almost crippling.

Back in 2001 I had a hard drive filled with unfinished stories that I had abandoned after my inner critic's whispering voice would become a shriek. I would quit writing rather than produce something I thought sucked.

In June of that year Neil Gaiman came to town promoting the release of AMERICAN GODS. I'm a huge fan of his work (SANDMAN is brilliant) and it's always a treat to hear him read his work aloud. At the signing I asked him if he had any advice for someone struggling to write and find their voice. He wrote an inscription to me in my copy of his short story collection SMOKE AND MIRRORS which read, simply: "FINISH THINGS".

He explained that much can be learned from writing a story which is bad. It was better to have a completed story that was lacking than a terrific unfinished tale. I know it sounds simple and obvious, but it was this blunt bit of wisdom that actually helped me break through. It was just the medicine that I needed.

I believe that the reading took place on a Wednesday night and the next day I decided to put the advice to good use and enter the ETC magazine short fiction contest. Problem was, the deadline was Friday. I came up with a story about an engaged couple who visit a psychic to have a reading about their future and the message the bride-to-be receives on the sly from the medium. It was called SONDRA'S PSYCHIC READINGS. I wrote it quickly all the while pushing that inner critic to the back of my mind and revised it in haste. I just managed to deliver it in person under the 4:00PM Friday deadline.

You probably see where I'm going so I'll cut to the chase: I won second place. Not bad for a 2000 word story that I dashed off just to prove a point. I learned that maybe I could write and that I needed to let my mind go and just get the story out of my head and onto the paper. That's when the real writing can take place.
I continued to write short prose and took a shot at writing short comic stories that eventually found their way into Digital Webbing Presents.

So, thank Neil Gaiman for the Lost Squad. He had a hand in it as well.
Thanks, Neil.


The Mad Alaskan said...

Thanks for posting that, Chris.

Kevin Lee said...

Yeah, a really cool post. The inner critic is something I've always had a problem with too, I'm getting there now though.

Chris Kirby said...

Hey, Kel --

Happy New Year!

Kevin --

Thanks for stopping by. The inner critic must die! I hate that guy.

Seriously, for me it's more about getting comfortable with putting myself out there. Often, though, it can mean I haven't "cracked" the story just yet and I need to take another look.

Here's too a great 2008!