A scrapbook of stuff I'm reading / looking at / listening to / thinking about...

Posts tagged "neil gaiman"

Aug 01, 2014

May 22, 2013

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.

Dec 27, 2012
You get work however you get work, but people keep working because their work is good, because they are easy to get along with, and because they deliver the work on time. And you don’t even need all three! Two out of three is fine. People will tolerate how unpleasant you are if your work is good and you deliver it on time. People will forgive the lateness of your work if it is good and they like you. And you don’t have to be as good as everyone else if you’re on time and it’s always a pleasure to hear from you.

Oct 07, 2012

George R. R. Martin and what an author owes his readers

I was going through my old stack of New Yorkers and came across this great profile of the Game of Thrones author and his rabid, impatient fans. The profile was published in April 2011, and it’d been six years since Martin published book four of the series, A Feast For Crows. (Book five, A Dance With Dragons, came out a few months later.)

Because fans had waited so long for book five, and Martin was so open with them, giving them glimpses of his life on his LiveJournal, there was (and probably still is, I’m guessing) “an entire community of apostates…devoted to taunting Martin.” A typical comment was, “You suck…. Pull your fucking typewriter out of your ass and start fucking typing.” Some of the crueler comments said, “You better not pull a Jordan,” referring to Robert Jordan, who died before his series “Wheel of Time” was finished.12

In 2009, Martin wrote a blog post, “To My Detractors,” in which he admitted that “the rising tide of venom about the lateness of A DANCE WITH DRAGONS has gotten pretty discouraging.” It seemed that people didn’t want him to travel or to hear about his side projects or hobbies (for example, watching football), all they wanted to do is have him finish the book.

The online attacks on Martin suggest that some readers have a new idea about what an author owes them. They see themselves as customers, not devotees, and they expect prompt, consistent service.

Neil Gaiman responded to this in a wonderful blog post, “Entitlement Issues,” in which he wrote that “George R.R. Martin is not your bitch… People are not machines. Writers and artists aren’t machines.”

You’re complaining about George doing other things than writing the books you want to read as if your buying the first book in the series was a contract with him: that you would pay over your ten dollars, and George for his part would spend every waking hour until the series was done, writing the rest of the books for you…. No such contract existed.

The worst part of all is that Martin knows exactly what it’s like to be a fan — he spent many years writing for fanzines and talked openly of his love of the Lost series and how disappointed and cheated he felt by the ending.

He does think of himself as being bound by an informal contract with his readers; he feels that he owes them his best work. He doesn’t, however, believe that this gives them the right to dictate the particulars of his creative process or to complain about how he manages his time.

See also: The People Vs. George Lucas

  1. It seems insane that fans would be so outright cruel to an artist they love, but it happens all the time online. Last year in a blog post explaining his hiatus, Chris Onstad of Achewood wrote, “I won’t entertain a bunch of entitled whining.” 

  2. Illustration by the awesome David Hughes 

Aug 11, 2012
I learned not to meet my heroes if I wanted them to remain heroes.

Jan 20, 2012

Alina Simone, reading chapter two of her book, You Must Go And Win


I love Alina Simone’s book about being Alina Simone, YOU MUST GO AND WIN. It’s a funny, sad, true book of stories about being a Russian-American singer-songwriter on the underside of famous.

I loved it so much, I persuaded Alina to make it into an audiobook, with her narrating.

And now I’ve persuaded Audible to let me set Chapter Two of YOU MUST GO AND WIN free into the world. Chapter Two is the one about answering an ad for a girl singer-songwriter on Craigslist.

It’s funny, sharp, well-observed, heartbreaking and true. Listen to it. If you have friends who’d like it, send them to it.

And if you want more (and I suspect you will) go to this Audible link to hear the rest of Alina’s adventures and misadventures. 

Alina is great. Get it!

(via youcantcopysloppy)

Oct 14, 2011
I never mind when people tribute me, as long as they’re upfront about it. You can rip me off as much as you like, if you say, “Yeah, I got that from Neil.” Because I feel that the moment I’ve written something, the moment I put something out into the public domain, it belongs to the world.
Neil Gaiman, on the Wachowski Brothers and Kevin Smith borrowing from Sandman for their films, and being gracious about giving him credit

May 05, 2011
I like ‘pencil-necked weasel’. It has ‘pencil’ in it. Pencils are good things. You can draw or write things with pencils.
Neil Gaiman, on being called a “pencil-necked weasel”

Mar 21, 2011
Writers and artists aren’t machines.
— Neil Gaiman on entitlement issues (Cited by Chris Onstad in his explanation of Achewood’s hiatus: “whatever I put up on Achewood.com is free to the world, and I won’t entertain a bunch of entitled whining.”)

Jan 01, 2011
May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you’re wonderful, and don’t forget to make some art — write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself.
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