How To Become A Writer - The Easy Way - by Neil Gaiman

How To Become A Writer – The Easy Way – by Neil Gaiman


To celebrate Neil Gaiman’s birthday (he was born 10 November 1960), I want to share this hilarious post from his Tumblr:

joseph-the-mop asked Neil: I have been trying to write for a while now. I have all these amazing ideas, but its (sic) really hard getting my thoughts onto paper. Thus, my ideas never really come to fruition. Do you have any advice?

This is the answer from neil-gaiman

Write the ideas down. If they are going to be stories, try and tell the stories you would like to read. Finish the things you start to write. Do it a lot and you will be a writer. The only way to do it is to do it.

I’m just kidding. There are much easier ways of doing it. For example: On the top of a distant mountain there grows a tree with silver leaves. Once every year, at dawn on April 30th, this tree blossoms, with five flowers, and over the next hour each blossom becomes a berry, first a green berry, then black, then golden.

At the moment the five berries become golden, five white crows, who have been waiting on the mountain, and which you will have mistaken for snow, will swoop down on the tree, greedily stripping it of all its berries, and will fly off, laughing.

You must catch, with your bare hands, the smallest of the crows, and you must force it to give up the berry (the crows do not swallow the berries. They carry them far across the ocean, to an enchanter’s garden, to drop, one by one, into the mouth of his daughter, who will wake from her enchanted sleep only when a thousand such berries have been fed to her). When you have obtained the golden berry, you must place it under your tongue, and return directly to your home.

For the next week, you must speak to no-one, not even your loved ones or a highway patrol officer stopping you for speeding. Say nothing. Do not sleep. Let the berry sit beneath your tongue.

At midnight on the seventh day you must go to the highest place in your town (it is common to climb on roofs for this step) and, with the berry safely beneath your tongue, recite the whole of Fox in Socks. Do not let the berry slip from your tongue. Do not miss out any of the poem, or skip any of the bits of the Muddle Puddle Tweetle Poodle Beetle Noodle Bottle Paddle Battle.

Then, and only then, can you swallow the berry. You must return home as quickly as you can, for you have only half an hour at most before you fall into a deep sleep.

When you wake in the morning, you will be able to get your thoughts and ideas down onto the paper, and you will be a writer.

Source: Neil Gaiman’s Tumblr

by Amanda Patterson

© Amanda Patterson

If you enjoyed this post, read:

  1. 6 Things Alfred Hitchcock Can Teach You About Writing
  2. Writing Advice From The World’s Most Famous Authors
  3. Why First Time Authors Don’t Write The Books They Want To Read
  4. e.e. cummings – on being nobody-but-yourself
  5. The 5 Criteria For Creating Successful Story Goals
  6. Proust’s Questionnaire – 35 Questions Every Character Should Answer

Top Tip: If you want to learn how to write a book, join our Writers Write course in Johannesburg or sign up for our online course.

This article has 9 comments

  1. Humpty Dumpty

    My people will be in touch with your people. Following your instructions we clambered atop a wall with disastrous end results before being able to complete your assignment. The only story to come out of this was a Breaking News item on CNN, contested by Fox who blamed the President.

  2. Shelley Hunt

    Have obtained berry, am climbing Mormon temple.

  3. Anita

    Best advice I’ve ever seen 😉 And it goes for anything we tend to procrastinate about. If you have always wanted to try your hand at something new, first try climbing that mountain, then running around to catch the smallest crow before you dare take that chance.

  4. Sarah E

    Easy peasy! On a serious note, this is why we need to guard our writing time. My friends and family are under the impression I have a magic writing wand, one wave, and poof….story!

  5. Diana

    Yes! But who will support me financially while I climb the mountain? Therein, is where my plot thickens.

  6. Leonardo Wild

    “When you wake in the morning, you will be able to get your thoughts and ideas down onto the paper, and you will be a writer.” And when the worries come, about financial support, you will find that miracles happen. You will know your friends, and you will know your enemies, and that’s the way it should be.

    The bones you break from climbing those walls and falling, will mend and leave you memories, and the hunger you feel will feed your stories with experiences that will be real to those who read them, as they were to you.

    And you will feel sorry for having taken away the berry from the enchanter’s daughter as the crow never reached her, and she went hungry, and grew thirsty, for your stories, your eternal debt to her.

    She represents the soul of humanity, starving for the stories writers who are willing to endure the long process of gestation will write for her, thieves all, cursed forever, unable to do anything else but write.

    Everything else is torture.

  7. Mike

    While I love Neil, this ‘advice’ was only funny the first couple times I read it…..It’s gotten to the point of being the literary equivalent of a ‘dad joke’ now.

  8. Grow up. Follow a boaster, you'll be a wanker. Advice: Write. ?

    Said it.

  9. Grow up. Follow a boaster, you'll be a wanker. Advice: Write. ?

    As said

Comments are now closed.