Sometimes you need a little inspiration in life. Perhaps you are facing challenges that are emotionally and mentally draining, or you are feeling lost at sea, unsure of which way to swim. For those in need of support or encouragement, Make Good Art is a great place to start.
Throughout my life, I have found Make Good Art to be a tremendous source of comfort, which is why I decided to write a review of this book. Make Good Art, based on a 2012 commencement speech given by Neil Gaiman at the University of the Arts, may be a few years old, but the lessons that Gaiman offers are still relevant to a broad audience—beyond writers and artists.
What I love most about Make Good Art, a small, brief book that is always near me, is that it reminds me to do meaningful work. In this book, Gaiman explores his own career trajectory; however, he doesn’t refer to his work history as a “career” because he feels that the term implies that he had a path in mind, which he didn’t. What Gaiman had was a list of things he wanted to accomplish, written when he was fifteen years old. Throughout his life, Gaiman worked diligently to achieve these goals, balancing meeting basic needs—paying rent, buying food, etc.—with writing. And whenever his writing felt too much like work, or he realized that he was professionally responding to e-mail and writing as a hobby, Gaiman would realign his priorities. Acknowledging the work we enjoy and realigning commitments as needed to allow time for that work is an important lesson to learn.
Gaiman also reminds us that regardless of our current situation, no matter how bad or crazy things may seem, we should carry on and make good art. Things will get better with time, we just have to do what we can and wait it out. Again, another important lesson.
I do wish that Gaiman had stressed the importance of providing funding for the arts. I know he has done this during other appearances, and he has certainly written a great deal about the need to support local libraries, but we live in a time when funding for the arts is threatened—and we need to take every opportunity we have to provide love, encouragement, and funding for artists.
With that said, I think it is crucial that those who have achieved success in their artistic field(s) share the knowledge they’ve gained with younger artists. That is exactly what Gaiman wanted to do in this commencement speech, and that’s what he did. Gaiman also reminds us of why the arts are important: they help us to cope with turbulent times in our lives, to express ourselves through different mediums, and to imagine other worlds—skills we need to re-imagine society and create positive changes in the world around us.