Make good art

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Sometimes writing seems hard and complicated and thankless. But when such feelings seek to overwhelm you, remember the advice of Neil Gaiman and simply make good art…

As we approach another season of university commencements I’m drawn again to the very wise words of author Neil Gaiman (pictured above.)  Addressing the graduating class of the University of the Arts in Philadelphia in 2012, Gaiman gave eight tips to young people beginning a career in the arts. Here is a summary of the advice he gave:

  1. Say “no” to projects that take you further from rather than closer to your own creative goals, however flattering or lucrative.
  2. Approach your creative labor with joy, or else it becomes work.
  3. Don’t be afraid of being wrong.
  4. When things get tough, make good art.
  5. Make your art, tell your story, find your voice — even if you begin by copying others. (Here’s my take on the value of copying others.)
  6. Keep working because you’re good.
  7. Enjoy your work and your small victories.
  8. Now is the time to make up your own rules.

You can watch the entire 20-minute speech below:

If you don’t have time for that, then simply read this excerpt from it:

Sometimes life is hard. Things go wrong — and in life, and in love, and in business, and in friendship, and in health, and in all the other ways in which life can go wrong. And when things get tough, this is what you should do: Make good art. I’m serious. Husband runs off with a politician? Make good art. Leg crushed and then eaten by a mutated boa constrictor? Make good art. IRS on your trail? Make good art. Cat exploded? Make good art. Someone on the internet thinks what you’re doing is stupid, or evil, or it’s all been done before? Make good art.

Gaiman’s exhortion to make good art is easy piece of advice to overlook in our cash-driven society. Isn’t it more important to get a job? But I know a great many people who have excellent jobs and yet they spend much of their spare time writing, because it’s a pursuit that satisfies them.

Make good art and you will never regret it.

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