February 2, 2013 in Dag

Watch out – the writing police are in town

I went to see Neil Gaiman last week.

It was a really fun night. He’s a great speaker and raconteur, a real writing rock star. And with the amazing body of work that he’s produced, he has an awful lot to talk about. Novels. Comics. Films and television shows. He’s pretty much done it all (did I mention that I was more than a little envious).

He read from his latest work (there were even some chapters distributed for free, but by the time we got to the theatre, someone had nicked our copies – bummer). He also read this brilliant Australia Day poem. But the thing that interested me was discussion of a commencement address he gave in the US last year, which apparently had been something of an online sensation.

Of course, I had to check this address out, and I liked what I heard. I liked that the focus was very much on writing what you wanted to write and thumbing your nose at any supposed rules. Because those rules are something I’ve been hearing an awful lot of lately.

It seems like wherever you go, there are people saying what you can and can’t write. They’re listing 10 rules for this or 5 rules for that or the 20 rules that every writer must follow. They’re saying how books should open and books should close. My head is overflowing with these rules.

I know that most of us won’t end up with the kind of success Neil Gaiman has achieved. But to me, the reason why he’s an inspiration is because he can have that success on his own terms. He can write the books he wants to write the way he wants to write them, without caring that he might be breaking any supposed rules. If he doesn’t want to write a sequel to a book that was a great success, then he doesn’t have to. Maybe he’s the exception that proves the rule, but at least he shows that it can be possible.

So next time I hear that the writing police are in town, laying down the law and telling me what I can and can’t write, I’ll remember the evening I spent listening to one of my favourite writers. And then I’ll just keep on doing what I’m doing and writing what I’m writing. I dare them to come and arrest me.

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