Neil Gaiman, considered one of the top ten living post-modern writers, never went to college. He neither started nor finished his advanced studies, but rather put himself into the world and started writing. And write he did. He’s now the New York Times bestselling author of the novels Neverwhere, Stardust, and American Gods, among others, and he’s also the winner of the 2009 Newbery Medal and 2010 Carnegie Medal in Literature. (We have gathered free versions of Gaiman’s writing in audio & text here.) This weekend, Gaiman spoke at The University of the Arts in Philadelphia and told the graduating class all the things he wish he knew at their age. The talk runs 19 minutes. The distilled version appears below.
- Embrace the fact that you’re young. Accept that you don’t know what you’re doing. And don’t listen to anyone who says there are rules and limits.
- If you know your calling, go there. Stay on track. Keep moving towards it, even if the process takes time and requires sacrifice.
- Learn to accept failure. Know that things will go wrong. Then, when things go right, you’ll probably feel like a fraud. It’s normal.
- Make mistakes, glorious and fantastic ones. It means that you’re out there doing and trying things.
- When life gets hard, as it inevitably will, make good art. Just make good art.
- Make your own art, meaning the art that reflects your individuality and personal vision.
- Now a practical tip. You get freelance work if your work is good, if you’re easy to get along with, and if you’re on deadline. Actually you don’t need all three. Just two.
- Enjoy the ride, don’t fret the whole way. Stephen King gave that piece of advice to Neil years ago.
- Be wise and accomplish things in your career. If you have problems getting started, pretend you’re someone who is wise, who can get things done. It will help you along.
- Leave the world more interesting than it was before.