Full Transcript: Neil Gaiman Commencement Speech to the University of the Arts Class of 2012

And here, on this platform, today, is one of those places. (I am enjoying myself immensely.) I actually put that in brackets just in case I wasn’t.

To all today’s graduates: I wish you luck. Luck is useful. Often you will discover that the harder you work, and the more wisely you work, the luckier you will get. But there is luck, and it helps.

We’re in a transitional world right now, if you’re in any kind of artistic field, because the nature of distribution is changing, the models by which creators got their work out into the world, and got to keep a roof over their heads and buy sandwiches while they did that, are all changing. I’ve talked to people at the top of the food chain in publishing, in bookselling, in music, in all those areas, and nobody knows what the landscape will look like two years from now, let alone a decade away. The distribution channels that people had built over the last century or so are in flux for print, for visual artists, for musicians, for creative people of all kinds.

Which is, on the one hand, intimidating, and on the other, immensely liberating. The rules, the assumptions, the now-we’re supposed to’s of how you get your work seen, and what you do then, are breaking down. The gatekeepers are leaving their gates. You can be as creative as you need to be to get your work seen. YouTube and the web and whatever comes after YouTube and the web can give you more people watching than television ever did. The old rules are crumbling and nobody knows what the new rules are. So make up your own rules.

Someone asked me recently how to do something she thought was going to be difficult, in this case recording an audio book, and I suggested she pretend that she was someone who could do it. Not pretend to do it, but pretend she was someone who could. She put up a notice to this effect on the studio wall, and she said it helped.

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So 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.

And now go, and make interesting mistakes, make amazing mistakes, make glorious and fantastic mistakes. Break rules. Leave the world more interesting for your being here.

Make good art.

Thank you.

 

Resources for Further Reading:

Failing Upwards: Science Learns by Making Mistakes by Phil Plait (Transcript)

Strong Enough to Be Wrong: Joshua Harris at TEDxHarrisburg (Transcript)

The Unstoppable Force – The Real Difference Between Success and Failure: Dan Lok (Transcript)

The Gift & Power of Emotional Courage: Susan David (Full Transcript)

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