On tumblr, someone recently sent Neil Gaiman a question about writing and received a – in my opinion – perfect answer.
I’ve had a lot of moments when I wonder if I’m insane for wanting to write. I’m smart. I’ve done well in school. I could get a job in chemistry or teaching or a million other things if I wanted them. Instead I’m chasing after an English degree with only a hazy idea of what lies beyond. I’m turning away from the paved road with multiple checkpoints and a McDonalds in the distance, instead trotting down the crooked muddy lane emblazoned with ‘here there be monsters’. Maybe I am crazy.
But I can’t stop. (That’s a sign of insanity, right?) There’s something about language that is beautiful. I experience a ridiculous feeling of excitement and joy when I come across a sentence or paragraph or story that’s written just right. The words flow, the images pop, the rhythm moves along… it’s how language is meant to sound. The idea that we can use words to reach into those dark, inexpressible parts of ourselves and outline them on paper is fascinating to me. I’ll never stop loving beautifully written lines (I keep track of them in a little notebook, even), and I will always keep trying to make them myself. All the pain and awkward sentences and embarrassment and late nights and despair melt away when you finally write something perfectly. It’s a feeling like no other for me, probably the same thrill an athlete gets when they make a goal. It’s the biggest accomplishment I can imagine – to say what I mean to say and to say it well.
I think Gaiman’s right – in a sense, writers never grow up. We retain that childlike instinct to ask “why” and “why not”, to make up stories and play make believe and ask why the world isn’t a different way. We just fingerpaint with keyboards now instead of that slippery washable paint that dried in funny ways.
Moral of the story (and this meandering travesty of a post)? If you want to write, write. We’ll be insane kids together.
We’re all mad here.