This is her on my lap last night. (From WhoSay.)
Because she is in the attic I went into the attic last night, and while I was there I looked in some tubs of papers. I found one marked Poems, and found myself flicking through sheafs of discolouring papers with poems or drawings or prose on them, including the first ever description of Mr Croup and Mr Vandemar by Neil Gaiman aged 17 (only I spelled it Kroop then), with a drawing of each of them.
And what amazed me was that there was almost nothing there that was written by me. I'd sound like e.e.cummings one moment and an awkward mash-up of Moorcock and Zelazny the next. You can tell exactly when I've been reading the complete poems of Rudyard Kipling... I could point to every poem, every unfinished fragment of prose in that folder, and tell you who I'd been reading, what I was thinking at the time. Everything read like a bad imitation of somebody else. There wasn't anything in there that indicated that I was going to be a writer, a real writer, with something to say, except for one thing, and it was this:
I was writing. There was lots of writing going on.
And that made up for so much. I never knew how to finish anything longer than a couple of pages, but I was writing.
When SHARED WORLDS asked me (and other writers) to write some writing advice on our hands (it's at http://www.wofford.edu/sharedworlds/handinhand.aspx - go and look), I wrote this: