Theatre, writing, and travel are my sports. And like any athlete, amateur hobbyist or consummate professional, it’s important to train during the off-season. Which has pretty much been all year, as far as theatre and travel go. Writing, on the other hand? Writing is there for me, always. It’s the hobby that never sleeps.
Even in times of “writer’s block”, I find that is usually just a certain style of writing. Fiction blocks seem to be the most common. But I can almost always write nonfiction. Making lists, mind maps, a brief accounting of the events of the day, a jotting down bullet-point fashion of the varying emotions and half-reasoned thoughts running through my brain.
I’m not saying it’s any good. I consider myself somewhat of a seasoned player at the shitty first draft.
The one nobody sees.
I have always found comfort in that not-seeing.
Lately, I’ve also felt drawn toward putting some words out there. My little screen or notebook or post-it or what-have-you, is still satisfying, but the act of having those words read — I don’t know — it’s a completely different feeling inside.
Not to mention, getting actual feedback from the audience about what’s working and what isn’t. As a theatre girl, I can’t deny that’s a huge draw.
Anyway, this is all to say, Neil Gaiman is right. In addition to countless amazing graphic novels and short fiction and fantasy novels and on and on, he also is the author of one of the most inspiring essays (well, commencement speeches, really) on living life that I have ever read. I have a copy of it on the table by my couch, in my favorite reading room in the house. There are too many good sections in it, so hard to pick just one, but I will anyway, and if it strikes your fancy, you can find the rest here:
Life is sometimes hard. Things go wrong, in life and in love and in business and in friendship and in health and in all other ways that 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 mutated boa constrictor? Make good art. IRS on your trail? Make good art. Cat exploded? Make good art. Somebody on the Internet thinks what you do is stupid or evil or it’s all been done before? Make good art. Probably things will work out somehow, and eventually time will take the sting away, but that doesn’t matter. Do what only you do best. Make good art.
Make it on the good days too.Neil Gaiman, “Make Good Art” , 2012
I have nothing more to add — other than, the whole transcript is pretty darned worth the read.