Did you know that Neil Gaiman didn’t actually go to university? And yet here he is, talking at a commencement speech and giving life lessons to graduates. Strange how things turn out, don’t they?
If you don’t know who Neil Gaiman is, he’s the creator of The Sandman comic books as well as the author of several novels. American Gods and Coraline (which incidentally was also turned into a movie) come to mind, as well as Good Omens which he worked on with the late Terry Pratchett. I’ve read many, many of his works and he really creates these amazing worlds which just suck you in and never spit you out.
This speech though is not about fiction or fantasy. It’s about the work of creativity itself, what one needs to do to be a success and how to do it. You’ll get both a glimpse at Gaiman’s early years as well as timely advice for anyone doing creative work of any kind.
I won’t share everything he said, you’ll have to watch the video for that. I’ll just choose two of the most important ones, at least for me.
First, don’t do stuff just for the money. If you do it just for the money, what do you have when the money doesn’t come? I’ve personally experienced this quite a few times myself and it hurts. If you love the work and don’t get the money, at least you have the work, and that’s something to be proud of.
Second, if you don’t think you can do something, pretend you are someone who can do it. Not pretend that you’re doing it, rather pretend you are someone who is good at it. Soon enough, you’ll actually be good at it and don’t need to pretend anymore.
There’s a lot more in the video including the best piece of advice that Gaiman should have followed but didn’t. As a bonus to you freelancers out there, he also throws in some secret freelancer knowledge he’s learned during his early day.
So enjoy the video and as the man himself would say, make good art.