Make Good Art

Posted by on May 20, 2012 in Linchpin, Magnificence | 2 Comments

This week, I found a post with an amazing commencement speech my favourite writer Neil Gaiman gave last week to the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. It contains some gems that I wanted to keep… As they contain advice that’s as valuable to me, as someone who works for and with a purpose, and you, as to any freelancer or artist. Enjoy! And: Make Good Art.

I selected the bits I liked most, and shortened some sentences, yet all of these are Neil’s words.

When you start out for a career in the arts, You have no idea what you’re doing. This is great. You don’t know whats impossible. If you don’t know it’s impossible, it’s easier to do. Because nobody has done it before, they haven’t made up rules to stop anyone doing that particular thing again.

If you have an idea of what you want to make, what you were put here to do, then just go and do that. I learned to write by writing. I tended to do anything as long as it felt like an adventure and stopped when it felt like work which meant that life did not feel like work.

When you start out, you have to deal with the problems of failure. Don’t do what you do for the money —if you don’t get the money you don’t have anything. Nothing I did where the only reason for doing it was the money was ever worth it except as bitter experience. Usually I didn’t wind up getting the money either.

I hope you’ll make mistakes. When things get tough: make good art. Do what only you can do best: make good art.

Make Good Art

Make Good Art

Make your art. Do the stuff that only you can do. The one thing that you have that nobody else has is you. Your voice, your story, your vision. 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.

Some secret freelancing knowledge: People get hired because: (somehow, they get hired. You get work however you get work.) But people keep working, because:

  • the work is good
  • they’re easy to get along with and
  • they deliver the work on time.

And you don’t even need all three. Two out of three is fine! People will tolerate how unpleasant you are if your work is good and you deliver it on time. People will forgive the lateness of your work if it’s good and they like you. And you don’t have to be as good as everyone else if you’re on time and it’s always a pleasure to hear from you.

The best piece of advice that I was ever given (and I failed to follow): Stephen King said: “This is really great. You should enjoy it!” I didn’t. I worried about it, about the next deadline, the next idea, the next story… Let go and enjoy the ride. It takes you to some remarkable and unexpected places. No one knows what the landscape will look like to years from now, let alone a decade. The rules, assumptions are breaking down. The gatekeepers are leaving their gates. You can be as creative as you need to be to get your work seen. The old rules are crumbling and nobody knows what the new rules are. So make up your own rules. Be wise Because the world needs more wisdom. And if you cannot be wise Pretend to be someone who is wise and then just Behave like they would. Go and make interesting mistakes Make amazing mistakes Make glorious and fantastic mistakes Break rules Leave the world more interesting For you being here. Make Good Art.



  1. Dawn
    June 18, 2012

    Two out of Three is exactly what I needed to hear. Thanks to Sherri Cannon for forwarding this on to me.

  2. Olaf Lewitz De-Scaling Inspirations » Olaf Lewitz
    August 3, 2014

    […] Neil Gaiman’s Commencement speech at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, 2012 […]


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