On Writing – food for thought

I don’t often blog about writing, for many reasons (the main is: there are *hundreds* of people out there that do it far better than me) but today I came across a couple of interviews / posts, one by Neil Gaiman and the other by Jeff Vandermeer. Both discussing writing and how to keep at it despite failure, rejections and mistakes. Being a professional writer myself (both fiction and non-fiction, even though my academic writing gets the lion share), now stuck with a (non-fiction) book (for which I have already signed a contract) that stubbornly refuses to be written, I found them quite inspirational. I share them here for fellow writers, hoping they uplift your mood, too.

[Jeff Vandermeer:]

>> What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made as a writer?

I’d like to look at that question from a different perspective. I’ve probably made every mistake you can, and that’s been invaluable. Making mistakes is so important to growth as a writer and understanding the arc of your career, and what you want out of your writing and your life. My sole advantage here is that I started out so early, knew so early that I wanted to be a writer, and then have had a career that has been a steady upward rise through micro and small presses to bigger indies to large commercial and literary publishing houses. So several of my worst mistakes have occurred while I was also learning my craft, well before they could hurt me. But I still make mistakes. You never stop. You just get craftier and you get better at detecting bullshit.

Also, my point of view is to take risk with book projects, whether my fiction or nonfiction/coffee table books. When you decide that you’re basically going to say “yes” to every cool opportunity even if you’re totally out of your depth, then you’re going to make mistakes, and the biggest mistake is to let those mistakes throw you or haunt you. The past is never going to come back, so make the best of what’s ahead of you. (Full interview here).


[Neil Gaiman:]

It does help, to be a writer, to have the sort of crazed ego that doesn’t allow for failure. The best reaction to a rejection slip is a sort of wild-eyed madness, an evil grin, and sitting yourself in front of the keyboard muttering “Okay, you bastards. Try rejecting this!” and then writing something so unbelievably brilliant that all other writers will disembowel themselves with their pens upon reading it, because there’s nothing left to write. Because the rejection slips will arrive. And, if the books are published, then you can pretty much guarantee that bad reviews will be as well. And you’ll need to learn how to shrug and keep going. Or you stop, and get a real job. (Full post here).


  1. sjhigbee

    What awesome reflections on the business of writing. Steph! Many thanks for these valuable insights by established, best-selling writings:))

    1. Steph P. Bianchini (Post author)

      Thanks Sarah, they’re two of my favourite authors 🙂

  2. maddalena@spaceandsorcery

    Never giving up seems to be the underlying theme of both quotes, and I believe that’s important: if one of the drives for a writer is finding the answer to “what if…?”, then that question must never remain unanswered.
    And good look with your project! Or as they said in that movie: “Never give up! Never surrender!” 😀

    1. Steph P. Bianchini (Post author)

      Many thanks. 🙂 It’s the non-fiction book on space industry and challenges ahead – and it’s proving a hard nut to crack. I’ll share some of my findings on the blog, hopefully soon!

  3. ccyager

    What wisdom. How to make lemonade out of lemons (Vandermeer) and Gaiman’s madness. It helps to embrace both, I think. But then, it’s up to the individual writer how to deal with the failures and well as the successes. Sometimes success is scarier than failure.

    1. Steph P. Bianchini (Post author)

      You’re so right – and it’s something you don’t plan for, instead.


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