Neil Gaiman on Writing “American Gods”

Lately, I have been reading Neil Gaiman’s A View from the Cheap Seats: Selected NonfictionMy son bought it for me a while back, and I finally started reading it last week. A few nights ago, I ran onto this statement in reference to how Mr. Gaiman says he wrote American Gods:

It began in May 1997, with an idea that I couldn’t get out of my head. I’d find myself thinking about it at night in bed before I’d go to sleep, as if I were watching a movie clip in my head. Each night I’d see another couple of minutes of the story. [page 68]

There you have it and from one of the best authors in the business. Notice that Neil visualized his story as “a movie clip.” This really emphasizes how important it is for an author to actually “see” the story. The mind’s most basic element is images, and if an author focuses on images, she/he not only is in touch with the creative element of the mind but also will have much better recall of what happened when the time comes to put it on paper.

Quite possibly the most creative period of the day, many times, comes just before sleep, particularly if you have been doing something creative before crawling between the sheets. This is where Story Alchemy comes from. During the decades I have been writing, I slowly came to the conclusion that my post productive times were (1) at night before sleep, (2) during the night when I would wake after a dream, and (3) after waking in the morning and before getting out of bed. I also found that writing first thing in the morning, before breakfast even, helped to reboot my brain into the imaginative world and put me on the creative tract.

I remember when I first started writing seriously that I would set aside a day for writing, but that I would first do my chores so that I wouldn’t worry over them, and then I would go to the library, so I wouldn’t have any distractions. Bad decision. Seems my muse didn’t like libraries and didn’t like the middle of the morning either.

Story Alchemy capitalizes on this experience and even provides insight into the prelude of the writing event, as well as afterward, all of which suggests a ritual to ensure a successful writing session.


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