Sunday, July 29, 2012

Make Good Art

Some of you may have seen this already, but it's a message worth repeating. Neil Gaiman is the author of some amazing books (American Gods, Neverwhere ((my favorite))). But he isn't just a writer of adult fantasy. He's written television shows, children's books, and worked in audio books. Plus, he's funny in a charming, self-deprecating English way.

This is a link to the commencement speech he gave at The University of the Arts (Phl):

In it, he makes one central point: make good art. When things are hard, make good art. When no one believes in what you're doing (least of all you), make good art. No matter what the world is throwing at you, make good art. His point is that people do a lot of things for many reasons, but there's only one that matters. Make art for yourself and make it how only you can.

It's a beautiful message. In today's material society, it's tempting to take a job you don't love just to pay the bills. (I'm not saying let your family starve because you're too proud to take something that's beneath you. I'm talking about taking something you don't have to just for the sake of a few extra bucks.) It's easy to compromise yourself and do something that's more fashionable and less authentic. There's that silly saying about choosing between what is right and what is easy. If you're lucky, they're the same thing. But I've found that, more often that not, I'm unlucky.

I have uncompromisingly high standards for myself, and putting forth less than my best is infuriating. I'd rather do nothing than produce something I don't love. Sure I worry that others won't like it, but if I think I've done my best then there's no room for doubt. Right now, I'm in that hard place where I won't work because it's not going the way I want it to. I refuse to move forward until I believe it is where it should be and I'm kind of stuck.

I need to take Neil's advice to heart and make good art, but I also need to kick myself in the pants and do something. If I find that middle ground, I'll be sure to let you know.

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