We all chase it. The internet claims to be full of it. It can be as simple as an image or a song that begins a story in your mind.
However true inspiration, the deep down motivational sort of inspiration can be quite difficult to find. It takes more than just a success story or a you-can-do-it pep talk. It must be something that drives you on both the good days and the bad.
I am rarely a fan of speeches, but there is one in particular that I return to again and again: Neil Gaiman’s Keynote Address to the Class of 2012 from the University of the Arts. This 20-minute address is full of advice, humor, and a desire to impart the knowledge that our creations are in our own hands. No one else can make the art I create. No one else can make the art you create. And in a world of fighting for contracts and publishing deals and sales and success… that is all too easy to forget. We must create what we love and love to create before success can ever be an option.
At the beginning of his address, Gaiman says: “Looking back, I’ve had a remarkable ride. I’m not sure I can call it a career, because a career implies that I had some kind of career plan, and I never did. The nearest thing I had was a list I made when I was 15 of everything I wanted to do: to write an adult novel, a children’s book, a comic, a movie, record an audiobook, write an episode of Doctor Who… and so on. I didn’t have a career. I just did the next thing on the list.”
I think this is brilliant. This is a methodical way of saying follow your heart. Write what you want to see on paper. Give the world the characters who whisper to you at night. Do it in whatever way you choose to create. There will always be people who both love and hate what you do. You aren’t doing it for them. You are doing it for yourself.
Another favorite bit from this speech comes soon after the first: “When you start out on a career in the arts you have no idea what you are doing. 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. If you don’t know it’s impossible it’s easier to do. And because nobody’s done it before, they haven’t made up rules to stop anyone doing that again, yet.”
This knowledge is perhaps one of the most important things in staying motivationally inspired. There are no boundaries. There are no rights or wrongs. No one has seen yet what you will bring to the world of art. There is no one to judge you, and you should certainly never judge yourself. Find the divine inspiration in your heart, and create what you find there. It is there for a reason. No one else can do it. It is your quest and your quest alone.
Nearly every moment of this speech is quotable, and I have only touched on the briefest beginnings of his thoughts. You can read the entire transcript of his speech here or, better yet, watch him deliver it in the video below.
Be inspired. Make good art. And if you have other things that inspire YOU to create, share them in the comments! I’m always looking for a muse.