June 18, 2013
Neil Gaiman signing off social media
by Nick Davies
Author Neil Gaiman has been an active force on social media for some time now, with more than a million people reading his blog and following his Twitter account, @neilhimself, and about 580,000 Facebook friends. But the Guardian’s Richard Lea reports that Gaiman will all but disappear from the online world next year, taking a sabbatical from social media for about six months.
Gaiman cites the boredom of watching school plays as part of the inspiration to take some time off from being so plugged in. He was at the Guardian to edit the books page for a day, and told Lea, “People ask me where I get my ideas from, and the answer is that the best way to come up with new ideas is to get really bored.” And watching a school play creates the perfect isolated setting in which to come up with ideas, as Gaiman explains: “You have to sit there for hours and you can’t read or use a phone or check something on the web. I’ll come out afterwards thinking: ‘Did I just plot out an episode of Dr. Who there? I think I did.'”
Gaiman also said that he’s found being on social media to be a double-edged sword. He told Lea that he’s thankful that he was able to crowdsource research questions for his latest novel, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, including “the price of sweets in the 1960s.” By the same token, he believes he would have finished the book twice as quickly without the constant interaction with fans. He expounded on how pervasive that connectedness can become:
I feel that I’m getting too dependent on phones, on Twitter. It’s a symbiotic relationship. That instant ability to find things out, to share. I want to see what happens when I take some time off… I’m in the middle of a project right now retelling old myths. It might be nice to do that for a while, just to have the voices echoing in my head.
And for Gaiman fans who worry that he’s going to pull a Walden and disappear into total seclusion for two years, he promises that this is temporary, and that he only plans to unplug for about six months, starting in January 2014, after which he will return.
Nick Davies was a publicist at Melville House.