Neil Gaiman and Laurie Anderson, class acts in the arts
It’s about that time of year, where students — if they’ve taken care of their end of the bargain — get to hear convocation speakers. At University of Toronto, former mayor David Miller and MLSE chair Larry Tanenbaum are among those getting honours and a podium. In less fortunate places, students had to settle for the likes of Neil Gaiman and Laurie Anderson.
Clips of the latter duo are both gaining attention online. Gaiman, who never attended university, advises London’s University of the Arts graduates of the importance of persevering and continuing to create, ignoring the distractions of both successes and failures. He also passed along a lesson he says he learned in comics, about the real standards for freelancers:
“You get work however you get work, but people keep working in a freelance world (and more and more of today’s world is freelance), 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.”
Gaiman confessed to lying to comics editors to get his earliest writing gigs in that field, and Anderson tells a comparable story to graduates of Manhattan’s School of Visual Arts (her alma mater) about teaching Egyptian architecture in night classes and just making up facts when unfamiliar slides showed up. She quotes Karl Rove, and recounts working for NASA, among other patrons, but warns: “No one will ever ask you to do the thing you really want to do . . . just think of what you’d like to do, what you dream of doing, and just start doing it.”