I watched Neil Gaiman's address to the 2012 graduating class of the University of the Arts this past weekend. Gaiman is well known to the publishing world for many mediums, including comics and fiction.
He's a success story, or he wouldn't be giving a college address. The overall tone of his presentation was very positive, and I'm glad I watched it. It was inspiring.
However, there were a few things that rubbed me the wrong way, so much so that I transcribed those sections of the address for you below in red.
1) He made freelancing sound so arbitrary.
This life-is-like-a-box-of-chocolates mentality doesn't sit well with me. The more I'm studying marketing and reading up on how big name bloggers got their big breaks, I'm realizing that a rise to success is actually carefully plotted out for most people."A freelance life—a life in the arts—is sometimes like putting messages in bottles on a desert island and hoping that someone will find one of your bottles and open it and read it and put something in a bottle that will wash its way back to you—appreciation, or a commission, or money or love. And you have to accept that you may put out hundreds of things for every bottle that winds up coming back."
I'm not going to discredit the Stephenie Meyers of the world who knock their first best-seller right out of the park. It does happen, just not often.
But I don't like his alternative, either. If I'm sending my bottles out carelessly, haphazardly, then yeah...his quote would be accurate. But I'm learning that I can set my bottles on a trajectory that will better my chances.
2) I'm not willing to sacrifice my integrity.
"People get hired because they somehow get hired."Gaiman included this tidbit as his first "freelance secret" that he imparted to the graduates. He then told a story about how he lied to an editor at a magazine about where he had previously been published. He then said he made it a "point of honor" to write for all the magazines he'd named.
The fact remains that he was hired on false pretenses. Ethics aside--well no. I can't even write that. We are our word. We can sell ourselves without selling out ourselves. I work hard, and mainly work for free, in order to get publishing credits that I hope will send more bottles back to me on my desert island when the time is right.
3) Luck plays a small part in success.
The harder you work, and the more wiser you work, the luckier you get.I'd like to think that luck will have very little to do with it if you're working hard and working wise. Gaiman said that we should view our publishing dream as a big mountain on the horizon. He said take jobs that get you closer to the mountain and refuse jobs that don't.
I say look for those jobs and opportunities that will get you closer. You don't have to wait passively on the island for jobs to come along. Your active role will be empowering, and when success happens, it won't be because you didn't seek avenues to usher it along.