Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Dreams of Purplechickens

You and me, both. I've been thinking a lot--well, okay, some--about my life and career lately, not least because I'd been invited by an old friend to come speak during Career Week at the school where he's serving as principal. I've also invited K2 to come along, by the way, and you should see the amount of work she's put into preparing for tomorrow's 15-minute speech. Two solid days of work, reams of research, and even handouts. Me, I haven't even pinned down what I should say to these kids, so they wouldn't tune out and/or start pelting me with their shoes.

I suppose I could just talk about A Career In Writing, which I should be qualified to give, but how many of those 60-70 kids are actually going to want to go into our line of work? Two years ago, when I showed up at the same school to talk to that batch of high school about-to-be-graduates, I ended up talking about Doing What You Love and How it Could (Possibly) Make You a Good Amount of Money. My point was simply that it does no harm to dream. And besides, the people who make scads of money at their job tend to be very good at what they do, and you have a better shot at being very good at something you love doing.

I don't think I'm going to come in there this year and hand them the same line. It's not original, first of all, and it's harder to tell people about dreams when times are so tough and the kids who're using their college degrees to answer phones in call centers are the ones making tons o' cash. And it's not like I love everything that I do, these days. My wings feel a little cramped, even here at the luxurious quarters we call our office.

There's something Neil Gaiman wrote on his journal that I like, though, the bit from his speech at the Harvey Awards where he gives advice to other comic book writers. He says:

I've learned over the years that everything is more or less the same amount of work, so you may as well set your sights high and try and do something really cool.

There are other people around who can do the mediocre, meat-and-potatoes work that anybody can do. So let them do that. You make the art that only you can make. You tell the stories only you can tell.

As a solution to various problems you may encounter upon the way, let me suggest this: Make Good Art.

Right now, I'm listening to your Purplechickens CD, Luis (stolen from your desk again--sorry!), thoroughly enjoying the music and, yes, wondering what the hell is up with that lead singer. Why persist in taking the mic when, um, you might not be the best vocalist out there? For the first time since I heard this band, now I think I know why Aldus is singing: because he's making the art only he can make. Granted, it's sometimes off-key, sometimes annoying, not-so-pretty vocal art, but hey, it's his. Besides, his band's doing great behind him--it sounds like they're doing what they like best, too.

Anyway, that's my thought for the day. Maybe one day, I'll find fulfillment doing something else, and I can balance the account only I can balance, make the business plan only I can make, answer the phone query only I can answer, or even flip the burger only I can flip. But right now I'm listening to music and writing the thoughts only I have, and it's okay. I'm hoping to improve at this, of course, because there's always room for improvement, even in the things we're uniquely suited to. But the important thing is to do it.

I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "Oh, great. Now whenever someone searches for 'Purplechickens' on Google, our blog's going to come up."

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