thoughts, Writing

I Saw Neil Gaiman Speak

I can’t believe I didn’t blog about this right away, but it was very much like one of those dreams that make you feel hazy and floaty when you wake up like you know it didn’t really happen but you have all the emotions like it did, except this was real. So. Words. They’re hard.

But I’m back on earth now, so here’s the rundown. I went to Neil Gaiman’s show at the Bushnell Theatre in Hartford, and for completely inexplicable reasons I was barely registering what was happening until I was physically there. Like, I bought the tickets a while back, and I felt excitement leading up to it, but I couldn’t exactly wrap my mind around what I was going to see. My husband and father-in-law also went which gave me those feelings you will recognize if you have intense amounts of anxiety like yours truly: those ones where you feel pre-responsible for the kind of time everyone else has even though you have zero control over it (it’s why it’s hard for people like us to pick restaurants or tell you what we really want to do on the weekend). Anyway, it was definitely a me problem and turned out to be pointless to stress over because they both enjoyed themselves, and I should have known because Neil Gaiman is an excellent speaker. Hence the tour. Duh.

So, of course I cried, both a little and a lot, because I have a lot of emotions all the time and also some sorta brain dysfunction, and also because when people talk about the thing I love I get really overwhelmed, and all three of those things sort of smashed together that night. But, like, words, man. And talking about words? And, like, reading stories? And being charming and British? And holding a signed book in your hands? That’s like a cup of steaming hot sobbing stew that got spilled in my lap.

Ugh, imagine if I’d written about this the day after? What a mess that would have been.

So, I got this beautiful, hardcover, illustrated version of The Ocean at the End of the Lane, my favorite Gaiman book (so far) and a copy of the Fragile Things collection, and they both were pre-signed and totally worth the horrifying, sweaty, human cluster I stood in for half an hour to get up to the merch table to buy them. Seriously, my stress level was through the roof waiting there, no clear line to stand in, so much noise, surrounded by people for the first time in literal years, but as a very large and hairy man beside me said, “This is the most polite mob I’ve ever been in,” and he was absolutely right, but that should be expected of readers, I think.

Gaiman read Chivalry to us as well as Click Clack the Rattle Bag and a poem about Batman which gave me more insight into his love of comics and those fans–I feel like there are two kinds of Gaiman fans, the comic ones and the literary ones. To be clear, I don’t think we’re necessarily that different or there’s any merit to which you are, it just sort of hit me that people probably know him best as either the Sandman dude or the Stardust dude, ya know?

He also told us a lovely story about Terry Pratchett that gave me a lot of feelings of course about Alzheimer’s and my own grandma and getting older and life in general. We were given cards so that we could submit questions to him to answer on stage, but I felt like my question was too stupid, so I didn’t submit it, but I did use the card to write down the most important things that I wanted to remember, so here are those:

“Cassandra’d” – he used this word in his Batman poem to refer to himself as a child, professing to people that Batman was great literature. He verbed not just a noun, but a name, and I thought it was absolutely brilliant. Cassandra, if you’re unaware, was cursed in Greek myth to speak prophecies but never be believed, so ya know, you can extrapolate from that.

I also wrote down Night Watch because he said it was his favorite Pratchett novel, and I’ve not read it yet because I read incredibly slowly but also Sir Terry was incredibly prolific so getting through his stuff will probably take me a (very satisfied) lifetime.

And two pieces of advice that I think go together when it comes to writing: “You have to not care” and “be a little too honest.” I think he said them in answer to the same question about being scared to share your work and/or losing control over your work once it’s in the world. It’s simple, first of all, to say “just don’t care” as opposed to actually not caring, but hearing someone who you know probably still does care even a little insisting it must be done really reinforced into me an attitude I’ve been trying to embrace for years. I’m getting better, but I’m not there yet. Probably never really will be, but closer is better.

But that “be a little too honest” is just…chef’s kiss. It’s terrifying, of course, especially when being that way opens you up to so much more heartbreak. I mean, who cares if someone doesn’t like your dumb little stories, but if they don’t like your real, honest, heartfelt, deep-down-in-your-soul stories? Fuck, that’s earth shattering. But probably also worth it.

The book I’ve been most honest in is also my worst rated. I do understand it’s also got a lot of problems as far as story goes, and maybe the audience for it doesn’t exist/isn’t the audience I wrote for, but in the end, I’m still glad it’s out there, and I know I have a lot more honesty to go.

So, back to the writing then, because that’s the whole point.

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