Somebody said that writers are like otters… Otters, if they do a trick and you give them a fish, the next time they’ll do a better trick or a different trick because they’d already done that one. And writers tend to be otters. Most of us get pretty bored doing the same trick. We’ve done it, so let’s do something different.
I don’t think immediate tragedy is a very good source of art. It can be, but too often it’s raw and painful and un-dealt-with. Sometimes art can be a really good escape from the intolerable, and a good place to go when things are bad, but that doesn’t mean you have to write directly about the bad thing; sometimes you need to let time pass, and allow the thing that hurts to get covered with layers, and then you take it out, like a pearl, and you make art out of it.
One word after another.
That’s the only way that novels get written and, short of elves coming in the night and turning your jumbled notes into Chapter Nine, it’s the only way to do it.
So keep on keeping on. Write another word and then another.
I love writing in longhand. Writing in longhand, I think, is a marvelous thing to do for a writer these days. If you have a notebook and a nice pen you can go off somewhere, you can write that’s solar powered. You can drop it or get it wet and pretty much all of your work will continue to be there. If you suddenly decide to look up a word or check a reference you will not look up four hours later, blinking, finding yourself somehow in the middle of an Ebay auction you never had any plans to be part of.
Start telling the stories that only you can tell, because there’ll always be better writers than you and there’ll always be smarter writers than you. There will always be people who are much better at doing this or doing that—but you are the only you… There are better writers than me out there, there are smarter writers, there are people who can plot better—there are all those kinds of things, but there’s nobody who can write a Neil Gaiman story like I can.