Today I want to speak about the wonderful advice from Neil Gaiman’s commencement address speech (embedded below for the pleasure of your eyes and ears). In particular I want to go over the ‘no matter what gets you down, keep making good art’ part. A very valid and empowering piece of advice. Sort of.
The thing is that it pre-supposes that you have already made something that you are proud of, let alone actually finished something. What about the noobies amongst us that are just wading out into the murky waters of artistic creation, or those who are in danger of drowning right in the middle of it? (also known as the saggy middle of that novel you’re writing).
When it feels like your writing has all the eloquence of a drunk monkey slapping a keyboard, being told to make good art is a little like asking a blind person to just see, man. Good in theory, not so much in practice.
Instead, here is a wonderful little piece of advice that my Internet Writing Friend passed on to me, which is far more achievable for us noobs. It comes in the form of a pretty little clip from Finding Nemo.
Obviously substitute the word swimming for writing. (Just in case for some reason you can’t view youtube, it’s basically ‘Keep on swimming’ or in this case, Keep on Writing).
Ok, so I know this is nothing ground breaking. It’s old rope and all that, but the point is that sometimes the obvious and simple is the first thing we overlook. It’s easy to get too bogged down in the intricacies of plot, or theme or character development, and to get frozen in indecision and feelings of inadequacy. Sometimes, it’s good to remind ourselves of those simple, but fundamental little truths.
And going back to Mr Gaiman’s advice (thus neatly bookending this blog post – see what I did there? See?), Dory’s advice acts as beautiful little prelude to making good art. Once you can tell yourself that yes, you do make art, then by all means, continue to make good art no matter what. And good for you – come tell me here so I can pour you a glass of celebratory champagne and do you a little cheerleading dance. Until then though, be gentle on yourself and just keep on writing, one word after the other.
Even if your plot is darting off in all sorts of tangents beyond your control, so that writing feels like you’re wrestling with a twelve tentacled (mutated) octopus, don’t stop. Just keep on writing.
Even if someone ripped you a new arsehole when critiquing what you thought was beautiful prose. Keep on writing.
Even if your puppy shat in the blender. Just… no screw you, you don’t get to complain if you have a puppy.
Although if the puppy really has shat in the blender, stop writing and go clean it up.
And then breathe, have a Kit Kat, and just write a few more words, good or bad, it doesn’t matter. Just. Keep. On. Writing.