I have no idea who the speakers were at my own graduation ceremonies. Luckily, the kids who just graduated from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia will not have that problem, as their commencement guest was author Neil Gaiman (The Sandman, American Gods, Coraline).
Although Gaiman never graduated from any college himself, he is one of the most popular and prolific of modern authors. Here is some of the advice he gave to the Class of 2012:
1. Want to write? Write. It’s that simple.
I learned to write by writing. I tended to do anything as long as it felt like an adventure, and to stop when it felt like work — which meant that life did not feel like work.
2. Make good art.
Sometimes life is hard. Things go wrong — and in life, and in love, and in business, and in friendship, and in health, and in all the other ways in which life can go wrong. And 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.
3. Learn first by copying those you love. Henry Miller said,
And your way, is it really your way?
What, moreover, can you call your own? The house you live in, the food you swallow, the clothes you wear — you neither built the house nor raised the food nor made the clothes.
There is a lot more fabulous advice about writing and life, but here is a perfect summary of Gaiman’s entire message:
Go and make interesting mistakes, make amazing mistakes, make glorious and fantastic mistakes. Break rules. Leave the world more interesting for your being here. Make. Good. Art.
I encourage you to watch the entire address: