Saturday, February 02, 2013

The Best Advice

I was asked recently, on a stage in Sydney, what the best advice I'd ever received from another author was, and I told the Harlan Ellison shaving story I've told here. It is invaluable knowledge.

This morning I thought, I wonder what the best non-shaving advice I've actually got from another author was...? And then I knew.

It was in 1988, at the World Fantasy Convention in London, in the bar. I was with a bunch of people around a table, and had been interviewing Clive Barker about comics for a book on Clive that would be coming out. After the interview a conversational free-for-all developed -- I remember getting frustrated with Clive's view that comics were lacking something that prose had, because a novel could make him cry while a comic never had. (This was 26 years ago, remember. I have no idea at all if Clive still thinks that way, or if a comic has made him cry in the years between. I hope it has.)

And after the conversation was over, Clive took me aside. He said, "When we were talking,  you were getting louder and louder."

I had been. It was a noisy bar. And I'd had important things to say and huge opinions and dammit, I was determined to be heard.

He said, "Neil, don't do that. If you get loud, everyone else gets louder to top you. And then everyone's shouting and nobody's listening. If you want everyone to listen to you, get quieter. People will listen."

It seemed like the strangest advice I'd ever received. But I loved and respected Clive, so the next time I was in a bar argument/conversation, I lowered my voice. And the more I wanted to be heard the quieter I forced myself to get. I lowered my voice...

And people lowered theirs. They leaned in. They listened. I didn't have to raise my voice.

I felt like I'd been given one of the keys to the universe.

And so I pass it on to you.

Clive's been having some health issues recently, and I hope they are soon over and he's back to full strength. He was an inspiration in every way when I was in my early twenties, and I've learned so much from him over the years. Here's a photo of us from 1989 on the Nightbreed set stolen from his Facebook page.


Monday at midday Eastern Time, the first part of the mad make good art project I'm doing with the assistance of Blackberry will begin.  It'll be happening (to begin with) on Twitter. I'm @Neilhimself there (some people might not know this). I'll keep you updated with links and such on here, too.


Right. I'm at home. The home in the midwest.  Lots of cool things waiting for me here, including a bunch of books, one of which is the new edition of American Gods -- for the first time, the US edition of the Author's Preferred Text is out in paperback. (It's also the first of the New Uniform US Paperback covers to come out and will be released in a few days.) It's in the bottom second from the right...

(Also shown, two foreign editions of Sandman, three books that include short stories by me, a book I love with an afterword by me, and my copy of a great guide to where you start reading an author -- I got it because I backed the Kickstarter, not because there is a chapter on where to start reading me written by the outrageously talented Erin Morgenstern.)

It's cold here. But I'm wearing long underwear and will dress warmly and am about to take Lola for a walk down to the lamppost in the woods. Will post a photo if I get a good one.

Yes, the house feels empty and strange. But Lola is a sweet and loving dog. And I am writing things.

(The little flashlight around her neck is not really so that she can see better in the dark. It's so I can see her in the night.)

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