Pulling Gold from the Muck

Daniel Handler, a.k.a. Lemony Snicket, talks with The National Ambassador for Young Peoples Literature and recent John Newbery Medal winner Kate DiCamillo about children’s literature.

Daniel Handler Interviews Kate DiCamillo

DH: So then who were you when you were 25? 20?

KD: Ah, yes. Well. I was someone who wanted to be a writer, but who wasn’t writing. I was someone buying books on writing. I was someone telling people that I was writer. But I was not writing.


I think most creative people can relate to this. Figuring out how to start doing the thing you want to do can be paralyzing. “Paralysis by analysis” is how Coach Dail Smith used to describe it.

It took me years to finish writing anything decent because I lived under the notion you had to create gold in a lightning strike from the very first try on.

It took me years to realize this, live in denial, and finally learn the gold that one produces come only after wading, searching, and slopping through the muck.

First steps are always scary, and dirty and messy. But no matter what they look like or how awkward they feel, the first step is still a first step. And as the Chinese saying goes, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

Take that first step. Start producing your art or your science. Make mistakes and get dirty. Revel in the muck and persevere to find your own gold.


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