Neil Gaiman

“You have to believe. Otherwise, it will never happen.”  – Neil Gaiman, Stardust

The things we see, feel and hear are how we interpret our life.

These things change from the time we’re children until we grow into adulthood, but what we never understand are the thing before us define who we are.

The definitions we use to describe our lives…happy, sad, frustrated or depressed are who we define ourselves as.

Those definitions are the who we believe ourselves to be. These categories tell us, what to believe, feel and how we should act toward ourselves and others, but there’s more to it than that.

These definitions of our beliefs, they’re only for that moment in time. That moment we choose to be happy, sad or whatever.

The way we view our world is something which can be changed.

We follow what we’re told to follow, believe what we’re told to believe, especially as children.

We want to become what our parents tell us we should be, but we’re often let down by that, mostly because parents set such lofty goals for their children, and those goals are unattainable, whether by financial means or by intellect, but if we get past what our parents say, what then?

Our beliefs as adults are no longer reigned in by our parents, or at least they shouldn’t be.

We’re never taught to think for ourselves, to do what we want or to believe in what is closest to our heart. This is the travesty of society.

Finding the belief in yourself which has always been there is not as difficult as it sounds. We’re told finding ourselves will be a challenge, that it takes something significant to make that discovery.

That’s wrong!

Nothing significant happens to make us change who we are, or what we believe, it’s merely trial and error. The road we take is our own, and it’s the only road which leads us to where we should be in life, because of this we don’t want to work as hard for it, mostly because the work is hard.

If your belief in yourself is greater than the belief of those around you, then maybe you should change friends or jobs.

The belief you have in yourself should always be greater than that of those around you, if you have no belief in yourself, you’re only walking through life, taking the road everyone else takes, but you should take the road you want, and to hell with what everyone else thinks.

You have to believe in yourself, otherwise no one else will!

 

For most of my life, I’ve lived in the shallow end. I did only what I needed, I wouldn’t rock the boat and I never wanted to do the things which made me happy, I always did things which made those around me happy, or things I believed would make them proud.

Living that way taught me a few things:

  1. You can’t make others happy, regardless of how hard you try.
  2. You must to what makes you happy, to hell with everyone else.
  3. Your immediate family (which for me is my wife, kids and dog) are the ones who will support you no matter what.
  4. What you choose to do creatively can be the most important thing in your life and will give you more guidance than any book, speech of movie.
  5. You must find peace within yourself to do anything worthwhile creatively.

These five are the biggest things I’ve dealt with in my life and I’m going to go through them and tell you how I discovered the importance of each.

For Number One.

My biological dad has been out of my life for most of my adult life, this is a mutual thing and though I’ve tried and he’s tried, we can’t reach a point where we are amicable to each other.

When I was a kid I played soccer because my parents wanted me to, I was 4 and had no choice. When I was six, I started playing ice hockey, and though initially I did it because of my parents, I began to love the game and watching hockey, especially playoff hockey is a part of who I am today.

In my teens and toward my senior year in high school I wanted to do something which would make my dad proud, I enlisted in the Marines, and was discharged after failing tests in receiving.

I started college because I wanted to make him proud and it was my best way out of a bad situation, I failed at that too, completing only a year with poor academics.

When I moved to Las Vegas it was because I had no place to live as my biological dad and step-mom asked me to leave because of my relationship with my then girlfriend and present wife. Along with their not being happy with my relationship and my academics I left with my sister for Las Vegas, my girlfriend followed me to Vegas a month later.

I began writing again in 2001 after insistence from a friend and encouragement from my wife.

Initially I did because I wanted my dad again to be proud of me being published, but that never happened. After a reconciliation after my son’s birth in 2004 and eventual falling out, we didn’t talk until around 2009 when my daughter was born. That reconciliation like the previous one, didn’t end well and I’ve moved on.

I learned that my biological dad will never be satisfied with anything I do and the only person I should make proud of my achievements is myself.

For Number Two.

Along with the falling out I had with my biological dad, my sisters and a few other parts of the family stopped talking to me.

This taught a great lesson: Your family will not be there when you need them, and you must do only which satisfies yourself and ignore what everyone says about you.

I’ve since reconnected with my sisters and those other parts of my family and they are some of my greatest supports now. I don’t know how I could have dealt with my grandfather’s funeral without all of them!

For Number Three.

When others gave up on me for falsehoods they were told, my wife stood by me, and without her by my side the last sixteen years, I’m not sure I could have handled everything as well as I have.

For Number Four.

When I began writing again, I read books, watched documentaries and began following creatively gifted people on social media. I learned they are as clueless as the rest of us when it comes to how they got published or why they’re successful in their art.

Neil Gaiman said it best in his commencement speech, “Sometimes people get hired, because they get hired.” Which is the best example of how artists, writers and actors make it in their fields.

Neil Gaiman and others worry that they’ve perpetrated to some crime in their success and worry that their will come a time when someone will show up and take everything away.

I choose to write for myself, not because doing it for anyone else didn’t give me the results I wanted, but because I like to see the stories which come out and I enjoy coming up with the ideas, characters and worlds which come out so wonderfully on the page.

For Number Five.

Through all the things I’ve dealt with in my life, my parents divorce when I was eight, going to 11 different school and having to adjust to each, being discharged from the Marines, family giving up on me and being estranged from my biological dad, I no longer carry any resentment toward my family, my biological dad or anyone else.

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I learned this year that dwelling on anything never helps and that meditation and living for yourself and doing the things which matter to you are the most important things you can do in your life.

Your life is your own, no one else can live your life, no one can write your stories.

Your entitled to the life you want, and don’t let anyone, anyone tell you different.

We find our lives in creative things by experimenting and finding a happy place that we call our own.

Just as I don’t believe I’m the person who goes to a day job and slings drinks for tourists on the Vegas strip. I’m the person who stays up late writing words on the page for me.

I was listening to a song the other day, “Wild Again” by Starship. It’s on the Cocktail soundtrack.

But the lyrics in the song struck me, “Is this life I’m living mine?”

The life I’m living is that of the person slinging drinks for tourists because it pays the bills. But what if I start living like the writer I am. If when I meet someone and they ask me, “What do you do?” and instead of saying, “I’m a bartender at a Strip Hotel”, I answer the question with, “I’m a writer.”

I’ve read the once you start calling yourself a writer, others will see you as a writer.

I’ve always thought of myself as a writer, but it was the little things I neglected about being a writer.

Saying your something, but not following what that “something” is are two different things.

Believing you’re something you’re not, at least that you’re not giving your life to. That is where the divisions lays.

You need to believe wholeheartedly that you’re this person, or do like Neil Gaiman says, “Act like a person that would be able to do that thing.”

I like Neil’s idea, and in believing you’re a person that would do something the other person wouldn’t do, for me it would be being the writer and not the person who works the day job.

For you it could be, Being the artist not the College Student, or being the actor not the Single Mom.

Each of us are different in our lives, that’s what makes us unique and it’s also what makes us who we are.

Be the Person you are supposed to be and ignore the person you have to tolerate in order to be that person on a permanent basis.

Sunlight

What do you know about yourself? What have you seen? Where have you lived?

These are what I believe is meant by, Write What You Know.

Only you have lived your life, only you have done the things you’ve done. These are the breaths on the wind, the muse whispering in your ear.

The things you’ve done with your life are unique, because only you’ve experienced them. No one else has lived your life, and because no one has seen life through your eyes, no one can write what you can.

There are famous writers who’ve employed this with great success: Ernest Hemingway in A Farewell to Arms, Mark Twain and though he’s done other books, Neil Gaiman.

Neil’s most recent adult book, Ocean at the End of the Lane, the book is one of his most personal, as it takes place on the lane and in the house he grew up in.

Each writer incorporates their lives into their writings. This is what, Write What You Know, means.

Here’s how:

  • Make a list of places you’ve traveled to.
  • List interesting people you’ve met, they don’t have to be famous. You only had to find them interesting when you met them.
  • Write down the big things that happened, good or bad, in your life.
  • Make a list of people you’ve lost, and learn about who they are.

From the above lists you should be able to write a story which is both original–because it’s from your point of view–and people would like to read.

Remember only you’ve lived your life, no one else. No one has seen life from your point of view. Write only what you know, only what you’ve seen.

Use imagery from your childhood, your teenage years and your early adulthood. There is always a story, if you only look for it.

Are you writing what you know? Answer in the comments.

Delusions of...

I like the idea of trying to write a book in every genre.

China MIÉVille

Our idea of what our writing should be is covered up by labels.

These labels aren’t what we want, but a way for publishers to place our work in the market.

Each of us write different genres, but these genres shouldn’t limit who we are as writers.

Are we a Fantasy writer with their epic worlds and magical places?

Or possibly, a YA writer, creating worlds for teenagers to escape from reality and possibly discover someone in fiction who’s going through the same struggles they’re going through?

Then again, maybe your a Science Fiction writer, creating marvelous technology and doing amazing things in the future or some place among the stars.

Being any of these is great, but being the writer you want to be is more important than being classified as one genre or another.

Many writers write in different genres. Neil Gaiman has written children’s books, adult books, YA and comics. Stephen King may be the king of horror, but his Dark Tower series is fantasy.

Never let anyone tell you what you should write.

Even if you’re published, you can always write genres other than what you’re known for, even if you have to keep them to yourself for a while.

Writing is about discovery. Find the right story for you, whatever it is.

The genre isn’t as important as good writing.

Don’t define your writing by a genre classification, let others do that. Just write!

What’s your favorite genre to write? Answer in the comments.