I won a runner-up in an Instructables contest (which was called “Spectacular Failures,” so no wonder) for an attempt at carving a Harry Potter pumpkin. I was such a wonderfully horrible carver that the pumpkin looked like it was melting from within and the words “Harry Potter” barely noticeable, and so I received a prize: a book called “Make Good Art” by a guy named Neil Gaiman. At first I just shrugged and thought it was just a sarcastic joke, but I opened it up and encountered some of the best inspiration I’ve ever slammed eyes on.
Neil Gaiman is a bestselling author. Of a lot of stuff. He’s written novels, children’s books, comics, films, TV, and theater. You may know him as the author of Stardust, Coraline, and a couple Doctor Who episodes. My first thought upon first discovering Mr. Gaiman was, “Who in the world has time to do all that?”
Neil Gaiman answers that question himself in his commencement address at Philadelphia’s University of the Arts in 2012. He urged all the creative minds listening to him to be brave, strong, to break rules and think outside the box, to make good art. The speech was such a hit that it became adapted into a small book called “Make Good Art.” The book itself is a piece of art, with creative use of the text and page design. I first read the dedication on the inside: “This book is for anybody who is looking around and thinking NOW WHAT?” I chuckled, but I knew right then and there that this book was for me.
One of the first sentences went thus: “I escaped from school as soon as I could, when the prospect of four more years of enforced learning before I’d become the writer I wanted to be was stifling.” Who is this guy, I wondered, and read on, even more entranced. The whole 19-minute-speech was put into this little book and it is a pretty quick read. Nearly every single sentence inside is a piece of quotable inspiration. Using life experience, Gaiman basically encourages artists, writers, and all people of any creative ambition to make good art, no matter how bad life can be, how downhill your career goes, no matter what people say or even if you don’t have any money, because it can lead you to do great things. He says he learned to write by writing. Something that worked for him was a mountain, a goal, and he made sure that everything he did went towards that mountain and avoided doing anything that would take him away from it. He tells us to make our own rules. He also stresses the importance of failure.
“If you’re making mistakes, it means you’re out there doing something. And the mistakes in themselves can be useful. I once mispelled Caroline, in a letter, transposing the A and the O, and I thought, ‘Coraline looks like a real name.’” – Neil Gaiman
And that’s really all I’ve got. All I can do is tell you how awesome this book is and put together a pretty conglomeration of quotes, because that’s all it is: a bunch of amazing, encouraging, inspiring quotes, and as a writer, a person who tries to make good art, this book is very important to me. Most of you who read my blog are probably writers, readers, painters, artists, of some kind, and I want you, I want everyone to read this little book or listen to the speech itself (please view below):