Career Implies I Had A Career Plan
May 18, 2012 3:41 PM   Subscribe

I'm sharing this with my students. Immediately.
posted by alight at 4:38 PM on May 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

This just makes me so happy. Thank you for sharing this, I'm giggling madly.
posted by MissySedai at 4:40 PM on May 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

This is awesome.
posted by gen at 4:43 PM on May 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

A delight. Thank you, Whelk!
posted by MonkeyToes at 4:59 PM on May 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

When I first watched this I got the feeling that he was suggesting lying, pretending and in general faking it in order for freelancers to get a job, so I posted to that effect on Twitter. Neil himself actually replied to it within a few minutes, saying that I must have misunderstood, so I quickly rewatched it, and indeed there were a few things that made me trigger, but in essence the advice was, I guess, solid and actually quite innocent.

Unfortunately I deal with too many posers, dilettantes and liars in my everyday work, people who have big mouths and bigger egos, and who think nothing of exaggerating their own talent in order to land a job, and I think it's a serious problem for those of us who take the honest route.

Anyway, it's always a delight to watch Neil in action, and I did shed a tear...
posted by rune at 5:03 PM on May 18, 2012

Make good art.
posted by paladin at 6:00 PM on May 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Career is also a verb. I have careered all over the place.
posted by scruss at 6:20 PM on May 18, 2012 [4 favorites]

Hey remember when YoungAmerican said basically the same thing and everyone got really angry?
posted by chrchr at 6:27 PM on May 18, 2012 [3 favorites]

The idea that the way to keep getting work is to achieve a minimum of two out of the three traits of quality work, punctuality and pleasant demeanor sounds strange coming from a man who has a close enough friendship with Harlan Ellison to have witnessed the ability of a man to thrive while delivering at best one out of the three on any given day.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 6:40 PM on May 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

on any given day.

But you only need to achieve the combo when you turn your work in.
posted by LogicalDash at 7:15 PM on May 18, 2012

So great. Gaiman's joy in good art and conspiring with the universe, mischievously to unleash even more art by filling anyone within the sound of his voice with that urge, is infectious.

He gets so much right in that speech and I wish I'd heard it when I was much younger. Because what he gives there is the gift that any family member who makes art and is making a living is the incredible (seems to me anyway still) example and illumination really that art can not only sustain your heart and spirit, but put a roof over your head. All from the things that come out of your head...and your heart and your spirit...

Great stuff. I love that I've been loving the man's work for over 25 years...going all the way back to Hellblazer and Swamp Thing...and Dave Mckean cover art work and all that...

This Gaiman fellow has really blossomed into something...

Also the stuff about this being a "transitional time," so much much...I think we're really headed towards something like a new renaissance. One where anyone who wants to will be able to contribute something to a rich imaginative tapestry that's going to be unlike anything ever seen or imagined before...

Thank you Whelky...
posted by Skygazer at 7:19 PM on May 18, 2012 [3 favorites]

Oh man. Best graduation ever. I wasn't even all that excited about leaving UArts, but the entire ceremony was fantastic. The ode by Peter Stambler (108:30 in that stream) was glorious; Professor Stambler is like the best combination of Shakespeare and Santa Claus. Some of the music performances were fantastic, too (57:00, though the audio mix in that stream is pretty bad).

As great as I'm sure this speech is as standalone inspiration, for our graduating class everything Neil said really struck home. Art school is a weirdly draining and exhausting place, and I think that caught a lot of us off guard – definitely me; I'm just getting over a panic attack that hit in waves over the course of a very rough last week. The weirdness isn't that it's exhausting (I'm sure all colleges are like that), but that it comes from the same thing that also makes art school exhilarating: the freedom you have to pursue your own creative path, to be as strange and as personal as you can bear being. It gets talked about by plenty of creative sorts, but when you haven't experienced that firsthand it's easy to go Whee! I can do whatever I want! and assume that the stories of freakouts and nervous breakdowns are either overrated or, I dunno, genetic in nature. Something that happens to those artsy types but not to you.

But when you study this stuff and start trying to make it on your own, it's easy to be overwhelmed with the enormity of it all. That 90-minute summer blockbuster is the result of months and years of effort, and once you've tried putting in a fraction of that effort yourself you start to notice all the patterns and rhythms in movies you'd normally insta-judge and set aside. You see in even the most mediocre works hints and shadows of people trying and failing to do something more. And you start to understand why artists and critics have such reverence for the works they truly love: making something so great that thousands or millions of people might be affected by it is just a colossal undertaking. Colossal. It's a triumph when it happens, and it doesn't always happen.

It makes you feel small. Your ambitions seem meager and petty by comparison. Forget that you've got friends who tell you point-blank that art doesn't help society, that business is what builds up society, politics is what pushes it forward, science is what reaches higher and higher. Not everybody says this, but enough do to make you doubt. The worst is when the people telling you this are smart and talented and hard-working, but so enamored of their own worldview that they'll push it on everybody else. It's like arguing religion or computers, completely infuriating and draining, only there're people from pretty much every field who think it's okay to sneer at art. Either you're an mass-market whore or you're a pretentious schmuck. You do art because you weren't smart enough to go to a real school. You have nothing to say and it's frankly fucking conceited of you to bother trying to find your voice in the first place.

So on the one hand you've got people telling you that your passion is meaningless. On the other hand you've got art proving that art CAN have meaning, but it's so beyond you, every work doing so many things you can't even comprehend, that it makes you feel even more meaningless by comparison. And you're bombarded with so many ideas of what makes art "meaningful", none of which fit what you really want to do, so you feel even more like maybe it's pointless to even bother trying. But if you're going to work, you might as well kill yourself making it the best thing possible, because if you spend even a second not pushing yourself further, somebody else'll push past instead and make that thing you always wanted to make.

The catch, of course, is that the more time you spend trying to make something that meets other people's standards, the further you get from the art you were really passionate about making, the freedom that so exhilarated you. But since you're deciding upon all the constraints for yourself, it's harder to let them go and admit that you don't have to do all the things the other people told you it's a good idea to do. Yet you can't isolate yourself, you can't be completely self-indulgent, because you have to be constantly taking in new ideas and questioning yourself and thinking and learning and growing. There's a place for ambition and drive.

On top of this throw the usual college nerves. What the fuck am I going to be doing a month from now. What am I going to do to make a living. How will I deal with people looking down at me for my alma mater, for my past choices, for everything that makes me who I am.

Everything about Neil's speech therefore got to the core of what we all needed to hear. He told us that it was okay to make things up as we went. To do the things we love without feeling like frauds. He was funny and smart and mixed goofy things in with profound sentiment. He seemed basically like a pretty ordinary human being, and he told us that being who we were was pretty ordinary too.

Even the lofty sentiment at the heart of his speech – art defines the era in which it's made, changes the way people think, pushes the world to being a freer and happier and more creative place – was pretty mundane in a sense. When you spend all your free time writing and taking photographs and playing music and acting and making movies and programming video games, all the things you ever wanted to do as a kid, you start to worry that there's something rude and selfish and mean at your core, which is why you let yourself do these things which other people tell you are irresponsible and unfair. Like if you were a better person, you'd get a job, you'd run for office, you'd sacrifice some of your ambitions for the sake of the greater good. But what Neil said, basically, was that it's normal to want to do these things. It's hard if you want to do them well, because you do have to learn and grow and struggle, just like everybody else, but wanting to do them simply means you're normal. And if you're doing something which other people regret not doing, then maybe the push should be towards letting more people follow their dreams, rather than towards feeling bad and avoiding yours for others' sakes.

All in all it was uplifting and freeing and exactly the kind of college-end I would have wanted (and which, up till yesterday, I never dreamed I'd get). Sorry this is so long. Lots of UArts reflections trying to make sense of themselves and burst out.
posted by Rory Marinich at 8:16 PM on May 18, 2012 [57 favorites]

Rory, you are my new hero.
posted by Optamystic at 10:47 PM on May 18, 2012

I'm not sure how I feel about his feel-good signal-to-noise ratio, but it's Neil Gaiman!

I agree that 'luck' seems to be the alignment of location, commitment and hard work.

'Location' is often just a matter of showing up, or being at the right place at the right time.

He's Alan Moore's natural sucessor, but he's succeeded so well that the big stuff, like Miracleman/Marvelman is already more than 20 years behind him.
posted by vhsiv at 3:03 AM on May 19, 2012

Rory, you lucky bastard.

One, to have been able to have something meaningful as your commencement speech (mine had George Fucking Will). Two, to have been steeped in nurturing ideas through those all-important College Years. Three, to have learned, and taken to heart, ideas that I've just now started to realize fifteen years after college.

Four, to be able to write like that.
posted by notsnot at 4:35 AM on May 19, 2012

Rory Marinich What the fuck am I going to be doing a month from now.

I'd say you're doing it already.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 5:27 AM on May 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

My heart and mind soared with joy listening to that. Thank you.
posted by nickyskye at 8:04 PM on May 19, 2012

Finally got around to listening to this... wonderful. Not just for people in The Arts or freelancing, either, the core message is pretty universal: Whatever you do, do it well. And never do it just for the money. Take some risks, stretch, try to Make Good Things that you can be proud of.

I think I'm going to set a reminder to listen to this every year.
posted by evilmomlady at 5:11 AM on May 21, 2012

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