Sometimes a piece of art is already beautiful and complete on its own, until that day when it meets another piece of art that seems to fill the gaps which nobody noticed to have existed.
For me, arranging an inter-text oral interpretation performance (to be performed like spoken word poetry) is like a matchmaking of masterpieces. There are times when you get stuck asking yourself the question “Which fits what?” Other times you finish weaving words from two different worlds only to realize in the end that they do not really go well together. But there are those rare times when you just know; you just know what belongs to what and so you let the words and spaces collide. And it’s a perfect fit.
Today I just thought about the two most inspirational speeches I have ever read and heard in my life and wondered “Hey, why don’t I try to ‘marry’ them? Seems like they’d complement each other.” So I did. The first piece was the speech delivered by Neil Gaiman in a graduation ceremony in Philadelphia and the other one (in block quotations) was from the speech of Elizabeth Gilbert on TED Talks. Both delve into the realm of artistry and attempt to impregnate every artist’s soul with hope.
When you start out on a career in the arts you have no idea what you are doing.
I am a writer. Writing books is my profession but it’s more than that, of course. It is also my great lifelong love and fascination. And I don’t expect that that’s ever going to change.
This is great. People who know what they are doing know the rules, and know what is possible and impossible. You do not. And you should not. The rules on what is possible and impossible in the arts were made by people who had not tested the bounds of the possible by going beyond them. And you can.
I happen to remember that over 20 years ago, when I first started telling people — when I was a teenager — that I wanted to be a writer, I was met with this same kind of, sort of fear-based reaction.
And people would say, “Aren’t you afraid you’re never going to have any success? Aren’t you afraid the humiliation of rejection will kill you? Aren’t you afraid that you’re going to work your whole life at this craft and nothing’s ever going to come of it and you’re going to die on a scrap heap of broken dreams with your mouth filled with bitter ash of failure?”
Like that, you know. The answer — the short answer to all those questions is, “Yes.” Yes, I’m afraid of all those things. And I always have been. And I’m afraid of many, many more things besides that people can’t even guess at.
[But] If you have an idea of what you want to make, what you were put here to do, then just go and do that.
And that’s much harder than it sounds and, sometimes in the end, so much easier than you might imagine. Because normally, there are things you have to do before you can get to the place you want to be. Sometimes the way to do what you hope to do will be clear cut, and sometimes it will be almost impossible to decide whether or not you are doing the correct thing.
We writers, we kind of do have that reputation, and not just writers, but creative people across all genres, it seems, have this reputation for being enormously mentally unstable. But we don’t even blink when we hear somebody say this because we’ve heard that kind of stuff for so long and somehow we’ve completely internalized and accepted collectively this notion that creativity and suffering are somehow inherently linked and that artistry, in the end, will always ultimately lead to anguish.
The problems of failure are hard.
The problems of success can be harder, because nobody warns you about them.
[But] I would prefer to keep doing this work that I love.
[And] I hope you’ll make mistakes. If you’re making mistakes, it means you’re out there doing something.
Don’t be daunted.
Just do your job.
Continue to show up for your piece of it, whatever that might be.
Make good art.
Make your art.
Do the stuff that only you can do.