The Tim Ferriss Show #366: Neil Gaiman — The Interview I've Waited 20 Years To Do

Full podcast here.

  • Ian Fleming - the writer of the James Bond books - did not enjoy the process of writing. 

  • Ian’s process for writing a James Bond book in 2 weeks: Check into a mediocre hotel room in a city you don’t want to be in. Your focus is on getting out. Since you have nothing else to do in this city, in a horrible hotel room, you write like a fiend. In two weeks he had a James Bond book and got to leave. 

  • Neil’s rule to be productive: You can sit here and write or you can sit here and do nothing. But you can’t sit here and do anything else. 

  • Neil will write the first draft by hand using a fountain pen. If he is writing a novel he’ll use two different colors of ink. That way he can see at a glance how much work he did that day. Look at that! 5 pages in brown. I wrote that. Half a page in black - that was not a good day. This gives you a sense of the progress you are making. 

  • I used to be really good at working on multiple projects at once. I think I have to start accepting that I’m not as good anymore at that. Switching back and forth causes me to get less done. It takes me more ramping up mentally to switch between projects.

  • The most important thing for human beings is being aware we change. The biggest problem we run into is saying this is who I am, this is what I’m like, this is how I function - while failing to notice that you don’t do that anymore. 

  • George RR Martin has a metaphor for writing a novel. He divides writers into architects and gardeners. I’d rather be a gardener. I would rather plant the seeds, water them, and figure out what I’m growing as it grows. Then prune it and trim it to make something beautiful that appears intentional. At the end of the day, you have to allow for accidents and randomness.