What I Learned from Neil Gaiman and Al Madrigal

Posted on October 15, 2012. Filed under: Books, writing | Tags: , , |

Recently my life has involved a lot of writers – and I like it! Not that I have become besties with any of them (though I got to meet 3 very talented published writers at the Fall for the Book Drive – Read about it here), but I have managed to glean a little bit of wisdom from these successful writers.

First off, I got to see Neil Gaiman speak as part of the George Mason Fall for the Book Festival.  He did some readings, answered some questions and mostly looked and sounded adorable. I think it’s the English thing. I am sure he would hate to be described as adorable, but I can’t help it. I think he’s cute, and adorable.

Aside from having my school girl crush reinvigorated, I did actually learn two, hopefully, maybe, important lessons.

1. Whenever possible, be adorable.  Okay, so maybe we can’t all come built with a cute British accent (and please don’t fake one – it so doesn’t work), but I truly believe Neil Gaiman sells so many books, gets to write for TV and the movies and is as successful as he is based partly on the fact that he is likeable. Not to diminish his talent as a writer, because he’s a great writer, but flocks of fans don’t necessarily gather to hear every great writer when they are speaking. This is the third time I have seen Neil Gaiman at a public event and he always gets mobbed. I mean, people love him, not just his books, but him. So, if possible, be adorable. If not, at least try to be presentable.

2. Write. And then write more. And then write some more. This was actually something he said when asked about how to become a successful writer.  It’s obvious and everyone knows this, but knowing and understanding are sometimes different things.  His point was that there are a lot of good writers out there, a lot of great writers, but the ones who make it, the ones who get published, are the ones who are persistent.  He reiterated this point in several ways but the point was always the same – write, and then write some more.

Al Madrigal is a comedian and writer for the Daily Show with Jon Stewart.  The other day I got to see the Daily Show on Tour.  I was not expecting to get pearls of wisdom at the event. I thought I was going for laughs, but after the stand up comedy portion of the event, Al Madrigal, John Hodgman and Adam Lowitt hung out and answered questions. It was very cool. Again, I got a couple of ideas, lessons, thoughts from some of the things Al Madrigal said.

1. Think of writing as work. Obviously Al Madrigal writes comedy. He wanted to make a point that all writing is work.  Comedy writing is not just people sitting around making each other laugh all day and joking. At the Daily Show they put in long hours, do research, write, revise, write some more. Whether you are writing comedy, standup, storytelling, for TV, or working on a novel, you have to put in the work.

2. Read a book or two.  He recommended two books on writing, neither of which I have read. The first was “On Writing,” by Stephen King. I have had that book recommended to me many times and never picked it up, maybe because I don’t like scary stories, but I think I might actually get it this time. He also raved about “The War of Art,” by Steven Pressfield.  He said he has read it several times and that he always carries it with him. Strong recommendation. Definitely buying that one soon.

Two very different writers. Both kind of adorable.  They each said kind of the same thing –  writing is not easy, it takes work, and if you want to make it, you have to be persistent.

Sigh. Sounds hard!

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2 Responses to “What I Learned from Neil Gaiman and Al Madrigal”

RSS Feed for Jessica Piscitelli – Writer Comments RSS Feed

Great post, and informative, too. I’ve read both books you mention and they are both keepers.

Good to know. Thanks Joanne. I have them on my list!


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