Neil Gaiman Writing Quotes

Neil Gaiman is listed as one of the top ten living post-modern writers in the Dictionary of Literary Biography and is credited with being one of the creators of modern comics. In this article, we explore his insights and advice on writing through quotes from his blog and several of his interviews. Some of the topics covered include:

  • Why it is important to create
  • Ways you can generate ideas for writing
  • His writing philosophy
  • His insight on imposter syndrome

If you want to learn how to write from Neil Gaiman, check out his writing course on MasterClass. Learn more about MasterClass courses here.

If you want to learn more about Neil Gaiman, check out his quick biography.

Quotes on the Importance of Creating

1. As a solution to various problems you may encounter upon the way, let me suggest this: Make Good Art. – Neil Gaiman Blog, 2004

2. The world always seems brighter when you’ve just made something that wasn’t there before. Neil Gaiman Blog, 2004

3. Whatever happens to us, whatever we make, whatever we learn, let us take joy in it. We can find joy in the world if it’s joy we’re looking for, we can take joy in the act of creation. –Neil Gaiman Blog, 2020

4. Try to make your time matter: minutes and hours and days and weeks can blow away like dead leaves, with nothing to show but time you spent not quite ever doing things, or time you spent waiting to begin. –Neil Gaiman Blog, 2020

Quotes on the Importance of Writing

5. We have an obligation to understand and to acknowledge that as writers for children we are doing important work, because if we mess it up and write dull books that turn children away from reading and from books, we ‘ve lessened our own future and diminished theirs. – The Reading Agency Lecture, 2013

6. We must tell our readers true things and give them weapons and give them armour and pass on whatever wisdom we have gleaned from our short stay on this green world – The Reading Agency Lecture, 2013

Quotes on Reading

7. One of the best cures for a reluctant reader, after all, is a tale they cannot stop themselves from reading. – The Reading Agency Lecture, 2013

8. I was lucky. I had an excellent local library growing up. I had the kind of parents who could be persuaded to drop me off in the library on their way to work in summer holidays. – The Reading Agency Lecture, 2013

9. The lovely thing about being an autodidact (as all writers to some extant are), is you learn very quickly how to teach yourself cool stuff, learn cool stuff, read cool stuff, and get the meat of something out of it. And give the impression that you know so much more about it than you really do. – Rain Taxi Interview, 2001

10. Books are the way that we communicate with the dead. The way that we learn lessons from those who are no longer with us, that humanity has built on itself, progressed, made knowledge incremental rather than something that has to be relearned, over and over. – The Reading Agency Lecture, 2013

11. Books can also give you knowledge about the world and your predicament, give you weapons, give you armour: real things you can take back into your prison. Skills and knowledge and tools you can use to escape for real. – The Reading Agency Lecture, 2013

Quotes on Success in Writing

12. There’s that wonderful quote by Freud or Jung or one of those German gentlemen with beards, when asked how somebody could achieve fame and success, the reply was “you shit all in the same place.” Which I always took to mean you keep doing your thing until you have an enormous pile of it! – Rain Taxi Interview, 2001

13. But the people who go and live on the best seller list tend to do it by writing more or less the same book, more or less once a year. Do the same thing once a year and your bank manager will thank you. – Rain Taxi Interview, 2001

14. The best thing about writing fiction is that moment where the story catches fire and comes to life on the page, and suddenly it all makes sense and you know what it’s about and why you’re doing it and what these people are saying and doing, and you get to feel like both the creator and the audience. – Neil Gaiman Blog, 2007a

15. You don’t live there always when you write. Mostly it’s a long hard walk. Sometimes it’s a trudge through fog and you’re scared you’ve lost your way and can’t remember why you set out in the first place. But sometimes you fly, and that pays for everything. – Neil Gaiman Blog, 2007a

16. One of the great things about being a writer who gets read is that cool people turn up at your signings. – Rain Taxi Interview, 2001

Quotes on Making a Living through Writing

17. if you’re starting out as an author, you mostly can’t make a living, because you need to write, which takes time, and you need to eat while writing, and have a place to write, and that costs money, and when you do sell your first book it won’t be for much, because mostly first novels aren’t sold for much, and often they aren’t sold at all. –Neil Gaiman Blog, 2007b

18. When I started, I made my day job writing. I was a journalist, I wrote a few short stories, I interviewed people, I wrote non-fiction books. It taught me a lot about the way the world worked, a lot about deadlines, and it meant I wrote enough to develop a style, a voice that sounded like it was mine. And it paid the bills, and I edged over towards prose fiction and comics and only gave up my last few regular columns when I could afford to. –Neil Gaiman Blog, 2007b

19. When I went to talk to kids on careers at my old school, in the 80s, I advised anyone who was doubtful about writing as a career to do something else. –Neil Gaiman Blog, 2007b

Quotes on Getting Ideas

20. Where do I get my ideas from? I make them up. Out of my head. – Neil Gaiman Blog, Essays

21. When I was your age, people told me not to make things up… These days, they give me money for it. – Neil Gaiman Blog, Essays

22. I don’t know myself where the ideas really come from, what makes them come, or whether one day they’ll stop. – Neil Gaiman Blog, Essays

23. The Ideas aren’t the hard bit. They’re a small component of the whole. Creating believable people who do more or less what you tell them to is much harder. And hardest by far is the process of simply sitting down and putting one word after another to construct whatever it is you’re trying to build: making it interesting, making it new. – Neil Gaiman Blog, Essays

24. You get ideas from daydreaming. You get ideas from being bored. You get ideas all the time. The only difference between writers and other people is we notice when we’re doing it. – Neil Gaiman Blog, Essays

25. You get ideas when you ask yourself simple questions. The most important of the questions is just, What if…? – Neil Gaiman Blog, Essays

26. Sometimes it won’t work, or not in the way you first imagined. Sometimes it doesn’t work at all. Sometimes you throw it out and start again. – Neil Gaiman Blog, Essays

27. It’s the ideas – and the ability to put them down on paper, and turn them into stories – that make me a writer. That means I don’t have to get up early in the morning and sit on a train with people I don’t know, going to a job I despise. – Neil Gaiman Blog, Essays

28. My idea of hell is a blank sheet of paper. Or a blank screen. And me, staring at it, unable to think of a single thing worth saying, a single character that people could believe in, a single story that hasn’t been told before. – Neil Gaiman Blog, Essays

29. Often ideas come from two things coming together that haven’t come together before. – Neil Gaiman Blog, Essays

Quotes on Neil Gaiman’s Writing Philosophy

30. I’m going to go where my inclination takes me and wherever that takes me is going to be wherever I go. So I kind of trained people to expect that. – Rain Taxi Interview, 2001

31. My ideal reader is me. And yes, my ideal reader comes with me and is forgiving. – Rain Taxi Interview, 2001

32. The imagination and the place that dreams come from is so huge and so important. I’m trying to write about the real world, in that I’m trying to write about whatever it is the experience that makes us human, the things that we have in common. – Rain Taxi Interview, 2001

33. I don’t feel that writing about the real world means that I should be constrained to a version of reality that you see on the 11 o’clock news or read in the New York Times. I do not see why every single weapon in the arsenal of the imagination can’t be mine. – Rain Taxi Interview, 2001

34. Gene Wolfe, one of my favorite writers in any genre, defined good literature as that which can be read with pleasure by an educated reader and re-read with increased pleasure. – Rain Taxi Interview, 2001

35. If you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re Doing Something. –Neil Gaiman Blog, 2020

36. Then you write. You put one word after another until it’s finished – whatever it is. – Neil Gaiman Blog, Essays

Quotes on Fiction Writing

37. Fiction can show you a different world. It can take you somewhere you’ve never been. Once you’ve visited other worlds, like those who ate fairy fruit, you can never be entirely content with the world that you grew up in. Discontent is a good thing: discontented people can modify and improve their worlds, leave them better, leave them different. – The Reading Agency Lecture, 2013

38. Escapist fiction is just that: fiction that opens a door, shows the sunlight outside, gives you a place to go where you are in control, are with people you want to be with. – The Reading Agency Lecture, 2013

39. All fiction is a process of imagining: whatever you write, in whatever genre or medium, your task is to make things up convincingly and interestingly and new. – Neil Gaiman Blog, Essays

40. Truth is not in what happens but what it tells us about who we are. Fiction is the lie that tells the truth – The Reading Agency Lecture, 2013

Quotes on Imposter Syndrome

41. Some years ago, I was lucky enough invited to a gathering of great and good people: artists and scientists, writers and discoverers of things. And I felt that at any moment they would realise that I didn’t qualify to be there, among these people who had really done things. – Neil Gaiman Tumblr, 2017

42. He pointed to the hall of people, and said words to the effect of, “I just look at all these people, and I think, what the heck am I doing here? They’ve made amazing things. I just went where I was sent.” And I said, “Yes. But you were the first man on the moon. I think that counts for something. – Neil Gaiman Tumblr, 2017

43. I felt a bit better. Because if Neil Armstrong felt like an imposter, maybe everyone did. Maybe there weren’t any grown-ups, only people who had worked hard and also got lucky and were slightly out of their depth, all of us doing the best job we could, which is all we can really hope for. – Neil Gaiman Tumblr, 2017

Further Reading

If you loved the quotes by Neil Gaiman, check out the huge collection of writing quotes below. The collection features the best quotes by some of the most famous writers such as Stephen King, R.L Stine, Ray Bradbury and Margaret Atwood among many more.

The quotes are full of valuable advice for any aspiring writer.

If you are struggling to create a business around your writing and need some encouragement, read the quotes below.

  • Sources Cited for Neil Gaiman’s Quotes

Neil Gaiman Blog (Essays) Where Do You Get Your Ideas?

Neil Gaiman Blog (2004) Gunpowder, Treason and Plot, Posted on 5th November 2004

Neil Gaiman Blog (2007a) Why Write, Posted on 15th October 2007

Neil Gaiman Blog (2007b) On Being Venerable, Posted on 23rd October 2007

Neil Gaiman Blog (2020) A New Year’s Thoughts, Posted on 31st December 2020

Neil Gaiman Tumblr (2017) Dealing With Imposter Syndrome, Posted on 12th May 2017

Rain Taxi Interview (2001) Dreaming American Gods

Reading Agency Lecture (2013) Neil Gaiman: Why our future depends on libraries, reading and daydreaming