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Make bad art.
Neil Gaiman has released a book of his great commencement address, Make Good Art.
When things get tough, this is what you should do: Make good art. I’m serious. Husband runs off with a politician — make good art. Leg crushed and then eaten by a mutated boa constrictor — make good art. IRS on your trail — make good art. Cat exploded — make good art. Someone on the Internet thinks what you’re doing is stupid or evil or it’s all been done before — make good art. Probably things will work out somehow, eventually time will take the sting away, and that doesn’t even matter. Do what only you can do best: Make good art. Make it on the bad days, make it on the good days, too.
I love Gaiman’s message, but I also want to make a plug for something else: when the going gets rough, make bad art, too.
When 9/11 and Katrina hit and she lost a bunch of her close friends, Lynda Barry got really depressed, and all she could do is doodle:
I found myself compelled, like this weird, shameful compulsion to draw cute animals. That was all I could stand to draw. You know, just cry and draw cute animals…dancing dogs with crowns on, you know? And, like, really friendly ducks. But I found this monkey, this meditating monkey, and I found that once - when I drew that monkey, it’s not that it fixed the problem. But it did shift it a little bit, or provide me some kind of relief. And that’s when I started to think, maybe that’s what images do, because I believe in all my - with all my heart they have an absolute biological function…
“Good” can be a stifling word, a word that makes you hesitate and stare at a blank page and second-guess yourself and throw stuff in the trash. What’s important is to get your hands moving and let the images come. Whether it’s good or bad is beside the point. Make art.
“I haven’t done [a Doctor Who] episode set on Earth yet, and I haven’t created a new monster. And there’s part of me that feels… I haven’t scared anybody yet… The Cybermen have a few little scary bits but it’s running at about a 5 of 6. I’d love to a 9. I’d love to do something that sends adults behind the sofa too and makes them wee. Pools of wee.”—Neil Gaiman on writing episodes of Doctor Who
Neil Gaiman ponders what causes a book to be classified for children and recieves a standing ovation at TXLA
It’s not always easy to entertain a room full of librarians, especially in Texas. A group of librarians can be split into thirds. One group fits into the stereotypical, up-tight old coot who whispers “SHHH,” and longs for the good-old-days. The second group consists of librarians by trade who don’t passionately live and breathe books. They’re decent at the craft but used to be gym teachers or chemistry teachers and added on a library certificate for a change of scene. The third librarian group is full of quirky types. Here you find the punk-rock librarians, the uber-nerds, the lipstick librarians and those who excel in their knowledge of specific areas. While perhaps different in personality, what this third group has in common is their painfully obvious, insatiable appetite for books and all things bookish.
Entertaining this diverse group of librarians was the job handed to Neil Gaiman during the Texas Library Association’s annual meeting in April and he managed to elicit crowd wide laughter, cheers and a standing ovation, even though he said “Fuck” in Texas (or maybe the standing ovation was because he had the sand to say it).
Neil Gaiman chose to revise a speech that he had previously presented, entitled What the Very Bad Swear Word Is A Children’s Book Anyway?
“I write to find out what I think about things.”
Gaiman talked about how children know what they are ready to read and won’t reach to read above their limits. If they attempt to read something that they’re not ready for, they are inevitably bored and put the book down to find something more suitable.
“Children tend to be really good at censorship”
Censorship is an issue that Gaiman is no stranger to. He has had several pieces challenged over the years and commented that he received numerous complaints over the sex scene in Stardust, which was once referred to as embarrassingly specific.
“Walking the line can mean, occasionally, crossing it.”
Gaiman commented that there is a certain level of incomprehensibility for children thinking about the adult world. They are told to trust adults, yet adults lie to them about things such as the myth that the school years are the best years of their lives and telling them things like “shots aren’t going to hurt.”
“Ideas that are old and hackneyed for adults are still fresh and new for children.”
Gaiman concluded with the thought that there really are no discernible answers to what differentiates adult and children’s books. He jokingly stated that one difference is that in adult literature, you can “leave the boring bits in.” Swear words don’t make a book an adult book. Don’t kids deserve stories about magic, adventure and turmoil and to be pushed to the limits of fear that thrill? Kids will take something out of anything that they read even if they don’t understand things in the same way that adults do.
“You do not come to authors for answers. You come to us for questions.”