This One Tip Changed My Writing Forever

I’ve read advice from many great writers, editors, and readers. But one piece of advice really lit a fire under my ass.

That piece of advice was from my favorite writer Neil Gaiman,

“If you’re only going to write when you’re inspired, you may be a fairly decent poet, but you will never be a novelist — because you’re going to have to make your word count today, and those words aren’t going to wait for you, whether you’re inspired or not. So you have to write when you’re not ‘inspired.’ … And the weird thing is that six months later, or a year later, you’re going to look back and you’re not going to remember which scenes you wrote when you were inspired and which scenes you wrote because they had to be written.”

Neil Gaiman’s Advice to Aspiring Writers

That advice shook me for two reasons.

  1. It was a revelation to me that Neil Gaiman had bad days. For some reason, I imagined that he created just as much magic when he wrote as the characters he wrote about. I assumed that he had the secret sauce.
  2. If my favorite writer had to grind it out, then I just lost any excuse I had to not write consistently.

To get a manuscript done, you have to put the words down. It’s just that simple. Writing a book is a long lonely process.

But Gaiman’s words reminded me to put the time in, hour after hour, day after day, week after week—whether I was inspired or not.

I don’t do “writer’s block” anymore.

And that led me to finish one book, publish it and get halfway through the next (so far).

And you know what? He’s right. When I went back to look at what I wrote I couldn’t tell when I was “in the zone” and when I was just flailing about like a fish out of water.

We all have to grind it out. Even Neil Gaiman. Which means you have no excuse either.

Have you hit your word count today?

Dirk Hooper is a professional writer who has done work for many high-profile online magazines, has won the Top Writer Award at Quora for the past two years, and a Moore Award for copywriting in 2017.

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