Saturday, May 19, 2012

Smart advice on the creative life...

I am linking here to Neil Gaiman's commencement address to the 2012 graduating students at The University of  the Arts in Philadelphia, partly because I want to have it to refer back to when I need a pep talk. If anyone can give a pep talk to creative people in these crazy times it is Mr Gaiman. So many things he says, I found myself nodding along to: philosophies that underpin my own approach, ways of doing things that I have learned by the doing, advice that it never hurts to be reminded of. I love that he says he learned to write by writing. This is what I believe too, and sometimes my faith in this has been shaken by other writers, or teachers of writing (who I guess have a vested interest in rattling this belief) who disagree. I suppose it might not be true for everyone, but it has been true for me. The more I write, the more I understand what I need to do. The better my stories have become. I guess if I showed you my early stuff you would see the difference, but then I would have to kill you.

Gaiman also talks about writing the things you want and need to write, not just for the money you have been offered to write them. If the money side of things falls through all you will have to show is something that means nothing to you, that you don't care about. If you write something you care about , whether you get paid or not, you will still have something you are proud of to show for your efforts. I have tried to write things just for a payday and they turn out rotten. I know better than to try now.

And I am most guilty of worrying, when I should be enjoying the moment. Sure, my 'moment' isn't anywhere near what Gaiman's 'moments' have been. I've never had all those award nominations, or wins, the long line of eager fans waiting patiently for a Gaiman signature, the invitations to prestigious events, interviews, TV appearances etc .... but I've had good things happen and I struggle with the idea of stopping to smell the roses. If I stop the world might move on without me. But what is the point of doing this if you can't get pleasure out of the happy results of your own creative efforts.

I like that he says he didn't know that certain things were going to work, their success never inevitable in his eyes; I like that he says make mistakes - Coraline after all, was the result of a misspelling; I like his idea of making your goal a mountain and only choosing to do things that take you closer to that mountain - of course the problem with this analogy is whether you can always tell whether certain steps will take you closer or not - it's better, I suppose to take a wrong step then take no steps at all. I like that he talks of the upheavals in the creative world with excitement not fear. And I like that Melinda Szymanik, children's author does have things in common with the Rock God of Writing Neil Gaiman. His faith is my faith.

There are other pearls of wisdom in Gaiman's address and if you are a creative person I urge you to watch it and take notes. And go make good art!

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