Neil Gaiman and the Aspiring Novelist

Posted on June 23, 2006

Neil Gaiman describes an encounter he had on an airplane.
"The lady on the plane next to me yesterday explained, when I told her I was a writer, that as a former English Major she had had dreams of being a major novelist, but she was making a living instead, and she hoped to one day have enough free time to write."

"And I remembered Gene Wolfe getting up at 5.00 am every day and writing two pages before going in to work, and I told her that if she wanted to be a writer she ought to write. ('It's like most jobs,' I told. 'It's amazing how much of it just consists of showing up.' But she didn't believe me.)
How absolutely amazing! Here is a woman who slogs away at a boring day job, dreaming of being a novelist, who ends up sitting next to internationally bestselling author and screenwriter Neil Gaiman on a plane. She strikes up a conversation and gets some excellent advice about being a professional writer. But clearly she a) had absolutely no idea who he is and b) didn't believe a word of the advice he gave her.

It makes us wonder how many strange encounters like that occur in our lives, encounters where if we just listened harder and paid better attention could perhaps give us a good shove down the correct life path. Our Karmic Conclusion to this encounter: the woman was not destined to be a writer. Because if you wait until you have time to write, you'll never write at all. On the other hand, perhaps she'll see a copy of Anansi Boys or American Gods at the bookstore and think "Hey, I met that guy on the plane and he said that writers actually need to write things." It could happen.