If you’ve sold 70 million copies of your books, is it really possible to still have “bad pages” in your writing? Daniel Handler aka Lemony Snicket is one of the modern masters of young readers literature. His novels have had world-wide success and continue to serve as the magnum opus of his genre. As a creator, Daniel encourages us to ask ourselves “do I enjoy spending time with pen and paper?” Through the exploration of this question and more, we take a deep dive into the beautiful chaos, wacky mind and deep loneliness of life as a writer and creator.
Daniel Handler is the author of several books and other creative works. He is a incredible writer and contributor in his own right, but also to the world of authorship and literature as a whole. More commonly known by his pen name, Lemony Snicket, Daniel is the author and unique voice behind the children’s novels A Series of Unfortunate Events.
His books have sold millions of copies world-wide and are translated into more than 40 languages. He has watched his characters come to life through movie, tv show, and stage adaptations of his works in which he has had the pleasure of working with several renowned personalities, including Neil Patrick Harris and Jim Carrey.
How do you do something you’ve never done before? Something you’ve never been taught to do or don’t have a background in? For example, how could you possibly write a children’s book if you don’t have children and never studied it in school? You can use ‘the greats’ in your field as guides on your journey, but ultimately, you must forge your own path and let that ‘beginners mind’ unlock the magic of your potential.
Daniel Handler became one of the bestselling authors of all time in young readers literature... without ever studying how to write books for young readers. He shares his unique approach to learning, how he moves from nuggets and ideas to the written word, and how to push beyond our limits to unlock the stories inside us all.
As writers, it is easy to get caught up in questioning whether or not we are ‘good’. We want to know how we measure up against Stephen King, JK Rowling, JRR Tolkien, and other masters of language the world has collectively deemed ‘good’ at what they do. Daniel Handler admits there is an element of craft we must understand and utilize in our writing that determines whether we write correctly, but when it comes to deciding if this kind of creative career is one we want to pursue, he confronts us with a different question: do I enjoy spending time with paper and pen?
Once we establish writing is what we want to pursue, we must then grapple with the fact that it is an inherently lonely art. Others can join in the journey as a sounding board for ideas and advice along the way, but the actual writing is a solitary activity we must collectively go at alone. A natural part of the process is learning how to sit alone with ourselves and confront elements of who we are that work their way into our writing.
With humor and honesty, Daniel allows us a glimpse of his creative journey. Instead of using it as a step-by-step guide, he encourages us to use his journey, and the journey of other authors we admire, as a template with which we can craft our own path. Through trial and error, we can then establish the methods of story, character development, etc. that work for us and the genre we are writing to.
Though we must establish our own creative journey, we should not completely separate ourselves from the authors we enjoy and want to emulate. Instead, Daniel encourages us "to really dive in and take apart a text that's important to you." By dissecting the text and understanding not just what elements we are drawn to, but why we are drawn to them, we can better strengthen our own writing.
In this incredibly engaging and insightful talk, Daniel encourages us all to stop waiting for permission and start creating our own journey now — especially when it comes to a creative career. "There is no artistic balance that everyone agrees on". It’s about finding what works for you and sticking to it.
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