Neil Gaiman On Making Good Art

Neil Gaiman On Making Good Art

Writers Write is a comprehensive writing resource. In this post, we’ve shared advice from British author, Neil Gaiman on making good art.

Neil Gaiman is a bestselling and multiple award-winning writer and creator of various works. I recently watched his keynote address, delivered to the University of the Arts Class of 2012. It’s both so inspiring and so authentic, that I had to share snippets of it with you.It’s his advice to those starting out in a career in the arts, and is valuable to us as writers.

Neil Gaiman On Making Good Art

1. ‘When you start out on a career in the arts, you have no idea what you’re doing.’

Neil says this is great, because not knowing the rules of what is possible and impossible makes it easier for you to do the impossible. He says, ‘And because nobody’s done it before, they haven’t made up rules to stop anyone doing that again, yet.’ What a freeing take on not completely knowing what you’re doing all the time.

2. ‘I hope you’ll make mistakes.’

We’re generally petrified of making mistakes publicly, aren’t we? Neil says, ‘If you’re making mistakes, it means you’re out there doing something.’

He says, ‘… whatever you do, you have one thing that’s unique. You have the ability to make art.’ He speaks about how life is sometimes hard and how things go wrong. ‘And when things get tough, this is what you should do: make good art … Husband runs off with a politician? Make good art. Leg crushed and then eaten by mutated boa constrictor? Make good art. IRS on your trail? Make good art. Cat exploded? Make good art. Somebody on the Internet thinks what you do is stupid or evil or it’s all been done before? Make good art.’

3. ‘While you’re at it, make your art.’

Neil says, ‘Do the stuff that only you can do. The urge, starting out, is to copy. And that’s not a bad thing. Most of us only find our own voices after we’ve sounded like a lot of other people. But the one thing that you have that nobody else has is you. Your voice, your mind, your story, your vision. So, write … as only you can.’

4. Parting words about the world now and the world as we leave it

He speaks about how the rules in the creative landscape are changing, with the Internet changing the nature of the distribution of art. On the one hand, this is intimidating. On the other hand, it’s liberating. He says, ‘The old rules are crumbling and nobody knows what the new rules are. So make up your own rules … And now go, and make interesting mistakes, make amazing mistakes, make glorious and fantastic mistakes. Break rules. Leave the world more interesting for being here. Make good art.’

Slow clap, Neil. I couldn’t say it better than that.

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 by Donna Radley

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Posted on: 16th June 2015

0 thoughts on “Neil Gaiman On Making Good Art”

  1. I always enjoy Gaiman, whatever he writes or says 🙂

    I particularly like ‘I hope you’ll make mistakes.’ Because, seriously, that’s how we graw, and not only as writers. Making mistakes may be not only embarassing, but also dangerous, but still, that’s the only way we learn. I think we learn a lot more from our mistakes, than from things we get right the first time we try them, because if we get them right right away, we don’t really analyse them.

    I also love ‘While you’re at it, make your art.’ We are bound to start sounding like someone else, that’s how it works, in my opinion. When we’re starting walking, we need to watch how other people do it, so we can do the same thing. But then, we have to find our own gate, and I think that’s something that comes natural… if our mind doens’t go in the way. It depends on how our body stands, and its natural characteristics. It also depends on our experience and inclination.
    I think finding our own voice is such a natural process, many people never thread it.