Neil Gaiman hits the nail…

…on the head yet again. Here’s a post he wrote explaining how he feels about the entitlement an audience feels versus the ways writers spend their time.

“It seems to me that the biggest problem with series books is that either readers complain that the books used to be good but that somewhere in the effort to get out a book every year the quality has fallen off, or they complain that the books, although maintaining quality, aren’t coming out on time.

Both of these things make me glad that I am not currently writing a series, and make me even gladder that the decade that I did write series things, in Sandman, I was young, driven, a borderline workaholic, and very fortunate. (and even then, towards the end, I was taking five weeks to write a monthly comic, with all the knock-on problems in deadlines that you would expect from that).

For me, I would rather read a good book, from a contented author. I don’t really care what it takes to produce that.”

This is in reply to a fan who asks if he’s justified in being frustrated with George Martin, the author of the Game of Thrones books.

This is something that’s kept me from publishing and presenting work before; to me it’s a very big deal. I’ve held things back in the past because although I felt I created something quite good, I simply couldn’t stomach the thought of being seen as not very consistent. So I became reticent instead, which was much more painful.

I made myself decide between the possibility of being seen as a flash-in-the-pan one trick pony, or just not doing anything at all. It turns out that I love what I do far too much to let paranoia and other things get in the way. And I’ll admit that anyone who knows me well will tell you that I’m really bad at doing nothing.

So if doing nothing is not an option, why not do what you love and love yourself and your work for getting better and better as you go along? And why not share the results? I’ll say that it is important to work hard and that involves pushing yourself when you really don’t want to be touched or even awake, but I also think it’s conducive to sound output and proper motivation to be able to do certain things on your own terms. It’s a tricky one.

And here’s two more cents when you thought you got to the end of it all: Trent Reznor is one of my favourite artists (even though this passage could just as easily be about David Bowie, but I digress). I gave up reading reviews on his work pretty early on because what a lot of people were saying didn’t make much sense to me. I just wanted something like “this recent release is reminiscent of ________” or “get excited because ________!” I wanted to know what to expect because I think it’s interesting to gauge the changes to an artist’s work and influences over time.

But I ended up finding too much stuff about his personal life and weird value judgments based on things that have happened to him. WHAT THE FUCK. I WANT TO BEHOLD ART, NOT HANG THE ARTIST. Everybody seemed to be counting the years between albums and discounting their influence. All of a sudden, I couldn’t talk about the music I liked anymore. It became trés cool to shit on the guy. I became the only Nine Inch Nails fan I knew. Eventually, people were using him to judge me. I still can’t get a handle on how fucking weird and inherently unnecessary it all was. What is wrong with these people? Uh… can’t they just all fuck off for a minute?

Then the band broke up. Not long after their performance in Auckland in Feb 2009, I believe. I was in hospital during the concert date and didn’t know about the imminent finality of it all; I believed I’d catch them at another live date and all would be well. Which ended up being true earlier this year, but at the time, I was dejected. I blamed anyone and everyone who started shit and talked shit and acted like shit about the band. But I respected the decision. There’s writing I’ve done that I won’t look at very often because of the mindset it puts me in. Art pieces I haven’t shown anyone because I’m deathly afraid of explaining what motivated me to create them. Dark days for stark strays. Reznor wanted to move on. On some level, I get that. I think we all do, at least a little bit.

But they came back together and I was embarrassingly excited. Still am. That band is fucking serious. Those people work hard. And they’re good at what they do. But I think they know what a lot of artists know – constantly burning yourself out is no way to live. There’s being hard-working and being prolific and satiating various creative urges, but there’s also the fact that if you die for what you do, then you can’t do it anymore.

And I don’t mind waiting if something of this calibre is the result:

Artists have lives. Let them live those lives and gather inspiration in their own ways and in their own time. If you don’t like it, then you can go be a fan of something else. But life is chaos and art is even more so, so please just try to enjoy something if you can.

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