Neil Gaiman (author of many books including Coraline) gives one of the best keynote commencement speeches we've heard. In the speech Gaiman talks about the importance of passion, failure and the many other lessons he learned along the way of achieving his dream of being a writer. Here are the things he wish he'd known when starting out:
Firstly, when starting in the arts, you have no idea what you're doing. If you don't know it's impossible it's easier to do. And because nobody's done it before, they haven't made up rules to stop anyone doing that again, yet.
Secondly, if you have an idea of what you want to make, what you were put here to do, then just go and do that. Sometimes the way to do what you hope to do will be clear cut, and sometimes it will be almost impossible to decide whether or not you are doing the correct thing, because you'll have to balance your goals and hopes with feeding yourself, paying debts, finding work, settling for what you can get.
Thirdly, when you start off, you have to deal with the problems of failure. You need to be thick-skinned, to learn that not every project will survive. Every now and again, I forget that rule, and whenever I do, the universe kicks me hard and reminds me.
Fourthly, I hope you'll make mistakes. If you're making mistakes, it means you're out there doing something. And the mistakes in themselves can be useful.
Fifthly, while you are at it, make your art. Do the stuff that only you can do.
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