Making Good Art

Apr 15, 2020

There’s a print of Zen Pencils’ Make Good Art hanging in my home office. As you may have guessed, it’s there for inspiration. Neil Gaiman’s words are what they usually are; touching, funny, and inspiring.

Gavin Aung Than’s drawings bring the speech to life and illustrates Gaiman’s already vivid stores. But sometimes I have problems connecting to them, because I have to admit: I’ve had it pretty easy in life compared to most. But I was immediately drawn to the speech and the poster, and still am. Some of the best art comes from where Neil point us — real life. Often a reaction when real life gets really bad.

We’re in one of those tough times now. The whole planet is. For many of us in the U.S. this feels like an extraordinarily large bump (or crevice?) in a four-year road to hell. Has it only been four years? I think we got on this path many years ago.

One of my many struggles in building a creative practice has been figuring out when to stop researching and when to finally start creating. I’m writing science fiction that’s meant to model and satirize the real world. I’m surrounded (enveloped!) by potential material since we’ve politicized just about every aspect of life of the United States. Food. Transportation. Names. Pets. Sex. Gender. Work. Furniture. It’s all fair game for political activists from both sides of the aisle. When top I stop consuming and start creating?

Some might say that the best reaction is to ignore the politics and just write for entertainment’s sake.

Hogwash.

Entertainment is political. Choosing to not be political is a political decision.

As Neil Peart wrote:

If you choose not to decide / You still have made a choice

Go back and look at stuff from whatever you see as the “good old days.” There’s a good chance it's back before you knew much about politics. How does that stuff look now?

Either way, my inspiration comes from the world around me. I’m trying to make good art. And good art makes you think.

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