How Neil Gaiman Gave Me the Courage to Call Myself a Writer

Like I mentioned in What I read in October, Neil Gaiman’s collection of speeches, introductions, and essays gave a great look into Gaiman’s personality and values. I also found it immensely encouraging as a writer and aspiring novelist (shhh, it’s a secret!). His Newbery acceptance speech and his speech on why libraries are important (daughter of a librarian here!) were some of the most inspirational pieces I’ve read/listened to in a long time. Reading and writing are a huge part of who I am. I’ve been both for nearly as long as I can remember. My mom taught me to read when I was 4, and encouraged me to start writing when I was 5 or 6. 

I have a stack journals filled with the dramatic overly-wordy musings of pre-teen, teenaged, and young adult Lizzy, and I’ve now been to write more than a million words professionally. But until the last year or so I’ve been hesitant, and maybe at little embarrassed to call myself a writer. 

Writers are tortured people who spill the darkest parts of their souls into 400 page books. Writers are well-regarded people whose works are published in newspapers like the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. Writers are people like Stephen King who, despite being one of the most prolific published authors in history, has dozens of stories sitting around because his publishers are afraid to put more than two of his books on the shelves every year. 

But Gaiman showed me something different. Writers are people who write. You don’t have to be tortured, you can be happy! You can enjoy writing! It is difficult, but you can take pleasure in the struggle. 

Maybe the most important lesson he taught me was that when sitting down to write a novel (shhhh…) you don’t have to know its ending. In fact, sometimes the only way to learn the ending is by writing it. 

Stepping out and calling oneself a writer takes courage–courage I’ve always had a hard time finding. Gaiman’s words helped me find that courage, and I couldn’t be more thankful.

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