“I was in bed imagining my life, and I got to the point in my imagining when I was old and dying, and I thought: if I die and I haven’t been a writer, I will lie on my deathbed going, ‘I could have been a writer. Really could have been a writer.’ Whatever it is that I’ve done — if I’ve been any of the things I wanted to be or the things I didn’t want to be, or the things that I thought were inevitable, like becoming an English teacher — I’d be lying there on my deathbed going, ‘I could have been a writer,’ and I wouldn’t know if I was kidding myself. I wouldn’t know if I really could have been a writer. And the thing that would kill me would not be having failed, it would be this idea of having had this life and having had this idea that this was the thing I could have been, and not knowing if I was lying to myself.
And at that point it all got really simple. I went: what I need to do is I need to go and be a writer. And if I fail and I’m not a writer, then I will never have that problem. I will go to my death going, ‘Well, at least I knew I wasn’t a writer. And you know what? I was a very good estate agent.’ Or whatever it was I wound up being.”
Neil Gaiman, The Art of Neil Gaiman by Hayley Campbell