15 things I learnt from Neil Gaiman’s Make Good Art speech

©Stuart Bush, The Kingdom, oil on canvas 150 x 85 cm
 
In 2012 Neil Gaiman gave a commencement speech for the University of Arts in Pennsylvania.  Neil Gaiman is a writer of novels, comic books, graphic novels, audio theatre and films. He was born in Hampshire, UK, and now lives in the United States near Minneapolis. Neil’s most notable works include The Sandman, Stardust, American Gods, Neverwhere, Coraline and The Graveyard book. He has also been honoured with many international awards.  His speech is packed full of helpful advice for creative people.  
 
I thought I would write this blog post and highlight many of the learning points l found in it.
 
  1. “Instead of having a career plan, make a list of everything you want to do and just do the next thing on the list.”
  2. “Goals are like mountains in the distance.” Set them and be clear what they are. 
  3. “Do things that feel like an adventure. Learn to write by writing. [For a painter, learn to paint by painting]. Stop when it feels like work.”
  4. “A life in the arts, is sometimes like putting messages in bottles on a desert island, and hoping that someone will find one of your bottles, open it and read it, and put something back in a bottle that will wash its way back to you: appreciation, or a commission, or money, or love. But you have to accept that you may put out a hundred things for every bottle that winds up coming back to you.” 
  5. “Nothing I did where the only reason for doing it was the money, was ever worth it.”  If you do things you’re proud of and if you don’t get paid, at least you will be proud of your work. 
  6. “The problems of success. They’re real, and with luck, you’ll experience them all. The point where you stop saying yes to everything is because now the bottles you threw in the ocean are all coming back, and you have to learn to say no.”  
  7. “Write fewer emails, write [and paint] more.”
  8. “Get out there and make mistakes.”
  9. After you have finished copying things remember,  “The moment that you feel that, just possibly, you’re walking down the street naked, exposing too much of your heart and your mind and what exists on the inside, showing too much of yourself. That’s the moment you may be starting to get it right.”    
  10. “Do the stuff only you can do.”
  11. “You should enjoy it, let go and enjoy the ride. Don’t worry about the next deadline or the next idea.”
  12. “Make up your own rules.”
  13. “Pretend that you’re someone who is already successful… and pretend to be wise.”
  14. “Make good art!”
  15. “And now go, and make interesting mistakes, make amazing mistakes, make glorious and fantastic mistakes. Break the rules. Leave the world more interesting for your being here. Make good art.”
 
Here is the full speech:
 
If you would like to learn more about Neil please click this link below. 

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