It's that time of year when waves of freshly minted graduates head out to make their way in the world. It's both an exciting and daunting moment -- there's all the possibility and anxiety of the unknown, mixed with the uncertainty of one's ability to do what one has set out to do. This is especially so for anyone pursuing the creative life. If you're one of those nutty folks, or even someone already well on their way, Neil Gaiman offers some great advice in this commencement speech he delivered at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. As Gaiman puts it, it's "[e]verything I could think of that someone starting out on a career in the arts right now might need to know."
Watch the full speech in this video:
Or read the transcript here.
I honestly can't add much, other than to say, I find these words reassuring. It's so easy to get caught up thinking you can plan a career, that somehow by taking steps A, B and C, you'll get to D. But most careers don't work that way, especially in creative fields. How many folks today think there's a surefire path to establishing yourself as a well-paid director or screenwriter or director of photography? You'll hear advice -- make a short film, make a web series, write three feature scripts, network. All good advice, all solid goals, all worth pursuing, but it's important to realize that they don't guarantee anything beyond themselves. Making a short film guarantees you made that short film, writing those 3 feature scripts guarantees you've written 3 scripts. You have to take each project on as an end in itself -- make it because you're passionate about it and because you believe in it. Sometimes we have to balance a project with a part-time job, or a full on day job, that's just the reality of establishing ourselves in a creative field. Ultimately, in pursuing one personally compelling project after another, and dedicating ourselves to creating the best project we can create, we not only hone our crafts, but we make ourselves more likely to be hired for our skills.
For those of you at the beginning of this journey, what are your biggest fears? For those already in the thick of it, what would you advise your younger self? Let's hear it!
[via Neil Gaiman's Journal]