In May of 2012 Neil Gaiman gave a speech the senior class of the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. It wasn't a long speech -- less than twenty minutes -- and much of what he said most of us already know, but it was a damned good speech, an important speech, something each of us should take with us through the rest of our lives. William Morrow has just published it in book form: Fantastic Mistakes: Neil Gaiman's 'Make Good Art' Speech. You should go out and buy multiple copies now to give to everyone you know who is graduating from high school or college, just a you have done with Dr. Seuss's Oh, The Places You Will Go!
Although Gaiman spoke to students of the arts, his words go far beyond that realm. Each of us, through our individual talents and experiences, are works of art. Art in progress, perhaps, but art. In our lives, in our work, in all our endeavors, we owe it to ourselves and others to make good art. no matter what the circumstances, make good art. If your leg is crushed the eaten by a mutated boa constrictor (Gaiman posits), then make good art. And (he continues) if somebody on the internet thinks what you do is stupid or evil or it's all been done before, then make good art. good days, bad days, ho-hum days -- make good art.
You are the artist and your life is the canvas. Why would you want to make bad art?
I'm going to cheat here, because here is Gaiman making the speech:
but buy the book anyway. It's that good. It's that important. It's advice you don't want to lose.
And give a copy of this book, along with the Dr. Seuss book, to your favorite graduates. (And while you are at it, toss in a copy of Ben Shahn's 1957 book The Shape of Content. It's another good 'un.)