What You Can Learn From “Neil Gaiman’s “Make Good Art” Speech

What You Can Learn From “Neil Gaiman’s “Make Good Art” Speech

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Neil Gaiman - Make Good Art Speech And Book
Image Credit: Gawani Femi

One of the best speeches that will teach you about life is Neil Gaiman’s “Make Good Art” Video on YouTube. I haven’t watched it for some time and was inspired to revisit it after watching a great piece of artistry online. The art that stood in front of my eyes was a group of glow in the dark drones that was combined with beautiful, female, western dancing.

It was truly magnificent, and it made me feel like I was in another world in a far away galaxy. For that moment, everything I was thinking about and all my troubles seemed to disappear – that’s what good art does.

Everything you do in life should be treated like art. Art is something that you respect and something you care about. Your life’s work should tick both of these box’s; otherwise, you will never be fulfilled. Lack of fulfillment is a steep descent into a dark hole of failure that you may never get out of.

So with that said, here is my twist on the 16 lessons you can learn from the “Make Good Art” speech by Neil Gaiman:


1. Make it up as you go along

We have become obsessed with planning our lives and wanting to know how everything is going to turn out. Sometimes, when something doesn’t turn out it can pave the way for another amazing event to happen in your life.

Forget about wanting to know the future, take a moment to think, and then start creating the next few years of your life. Create something that is your art.


2. List down what you want to do and then go do it

Rather than follow a plan, list down what you want to do in life and then just go and do everything on that list. It will take you on an adventure that you will never forget, and you’ll be living life on your terms.

The list you write down should include some activities that involve you making good art and unlocking your creative side.


3. Rules only tell you what is possible

The problem with living life to a set of rules is that rules only allow you to achieve what is currently possible. Success is about doing what is impossible or what seems like a wild dream that will never be achieved. The game of life get’s even harder when you try and follow someone else’s rules.

“When the rules you live by belong to someone else, the goal posts will continue to change, and your life will become a cat and mouse game with happiness.” – Tim Denning

When you forget about having rules you can achieve what seems impossible. That’s how the winners become so successful, and that’s why everyone recognises who they are. No one wants to give a standing ovation to someone who followed the rules.

Rules destroy creativity. Creativity breeds impossible adventures that take your life on a new path. Throw out the concept of rules, form some millionaire habits, and then go crush your goals to smithereens.


4. Ask questions – find out how the world works

Making your life into a masterpiece of art requires you to get some world-class strategies. The habit we all lack is to ask lots of questions. Don’t be afraid to sound dumb.

“Ask questions and learn from those who have achieved the different pieces of the jigsaw puzzle that make up your picture of success in your mind”

Questions require a creative mind to think about what’s missing and to track down the people that can answer those questions with a level of knowledge that is unmatched. Don’t settle for second best and use your hustle to ask good questions to those who have achieved their dreams.


5. Keep walking towards the mountain

Keep Walking Towards The MountainPicture the mountain as the dream that your heart longs for. Whenever someone tries to take you on a route that bypasses the mountains trail by asking you to do something that is not you, say no. That mountain that you look at can only be climbed when you make good art to reach its peak.

It will take the creative part of your mind to find a way up the mountain, and it will use all of your physical capacity and emotion. There will be tough times as you try and climb the mountain but once you have reached its peak, the view of your dream from up top will make it all worth it.

Always keep the mountain in your sights by creating good art.


6. Only do things that feel like an adventure

Anything that feels like work will make you feel exhausted. Working hard at your passion doesn’t feel like work at all. Working on your passion feels like an adventure that you never want to stop being on. If you’re telling yourself each day that you have to go to work then you’re not creating art, you’re helping someone else make their art.

Your art is your own quest for adventure. Make that art the best damn way you know how and don’t ever give up!


7. Hundreds of bottles go out for every one bottle that comes back

Neil Gaiman - Message In A BottleYour life’s work involves creating lots of pieces of art that you send out into the world. These pieces of art are like putting messages in a bottle and placing them into the ocean in the hope that one bottle comes back.

When you are making art, occasionally one bottle will come back from time to time. Blogging is a great example of this. I write articles every day, and occasionally one hits the spot and gives me the energy I need to go to the next level.

As you become more successful, you then have the opposite problem; too many bottles will come back. At this point, you then need to become more focused on your art to narrow down the bottles that come back.


8. Don’t do it for the money

When you do anything in life only for money and then for some reason you don’t get paid, your mind can feel like you have nothing. If you make good art and do work you’re proud of then if you never get paid, at least you will have the art you created.

The lessons that will take you forward can only be learned from tasks that come from your art. Your art is your life’s journey and without it, you will be trapped in a maze of disappointment, resentment, and fear.


9. None of us know what we’re doing so enjoy the success

When you achieve success, your mind can tell you that you’re a fraud, and eventually the world will work out that you have no idea what you’re doing – none of us do. Don’t let your mind keep lying to you. Your success is a direct result of the art you make. There are no rules on how to achieve beautiful art that the world loves. So, make good art and enjoy any success you get.


10. Making mistakes means you are doing something

If you’re not making mistakes with your art, then you are probably doing nothing and not even trying to climb your mountain. There are so many couch commentators who can tell you everything about how your art should be created – none of them have ever created this so-called artwork themselves, though.

Increase your rate of failure and watch how beautiful your art becomes. Watch people admire you and be inspired by your influence. The art of “doing” is what will make you successful not the art of thinking about what you need to do.


11. When you feel naked, you’re starting to get it right

We all wear a mask, afraid of what others will think of us. The moment you take that mask off and reveal yourself to the world is the moment your art will become phenomenal. The more personal your story gets, the more people will love your art.

The art that doesn’t work out teaches you just as much as the art that causes people’s mouths to drop when they see it. Don’t be afraid to fail. Fail fast and move on.


12. When things get tough make good art

There are so many things that can go wrong in our life. We can lose a family member, have our heart broken by that special someone, or be turned down for the very art we love so much.

No matter what, make good art. Your art is what get’s you through the tough times and it’s what make’s the good times feel so amazing. Without your art, there are no good times. All there is without your art is empty space; empty time.


13. Time takes the sting away

Even if everything goes horribly wrong, you always have your art as long as your mind never forgets this one universal truth. The toughest of times can all be healed through the passing of time. Eventually, your heart will reform, and you will be back to your unstoppable self again.

Nothing lasts forever except true art. Your art, your passion, what you give to the world, and your love for other people are all you’ve got. They are the secret ingredients to the dream that makes up your mountain.


14. Start out by copying and then find your own voice

At first, you will probably start out by copying someone else’s art. That’s okay. The best example I have seen of this is Tony Robbins. Many of you probably don’t know that Tony started out by teaching the works of Napoleon Hill. A lot of Tony’s early work is based on the book “The Law Of Success.”

Through the years, Tony has transformed Napoleons work and made his own unique art. This would never have happened unless he started out by teaching Napoleons artwork first. It’s not about creating art that is different; it’s about creating art that is uniquely you. What do you have to show the world?


15. The Internet only makes your art better

The Internet, software, and data is changing the game. This is perfect for making art because it means no one knows what the future will be like, so you can focus on your art, and create the future yourself. When you realise that change only makes your art better, you will embrace it. You will develop that mental clarity that makes the clouds around your mountain disappear.


16. Pretend you can do it

What stops us from making good art is that we don’t believe we can. If you learn to start making your art and pretend you’re good at it, then one day you will be.

Look at me I’m no blogger. I just pretend I am and pretend my advice is good even if it’s not. In the end, if I believe I can be a blogger then I can be. All it takes is practice and time to be good at your art.

What does making good art mean to you? Let me know on my website timdenning.net or my Facebook.
Tim Denning is a former entrepreneur turned intrapreneur, working daily with fast-moving tech companies. He is passionate about what makes startups successful and is a thought leader/ game changer via the use of social media. Tim uses personal development and success as a platform for greatness. You can connect with Tim through his website www.timdenning.net or through his Facebook and Twitter.


  1. Don’t be afraid to make it up as you walk your path to success. Thanks for another great article! We don’t need to know all the details. The dots will start connecting with each step we take. That’s the beauty of life. We have a chance to be surprised with a wonderful piece of art and a piece of who we are when we commit to taking a single step every day.

  2. Great article. One of things that I love in this article is how you should turn tough times into good art. When you think about it, historically the best pieces of art rather it be music or paintings, they they have from when the person was going through their toughest times. I really believe that tough times are only there to make us stronger, wiser, and better artists in life. One person once told me that they use the pain and tough times that they go through to fuel them to be better and to go after their dreams more ferociously, and I have that same attitude now.

    • Lawrence thanks for highlighting the point again about tough times. It really is true when you go back and study histories greats. There is no success without tough times. Thanks for reading mate!

  3. Woke up today with a heavy heart after a night storm. Haven’t slept well. What’s better way to start your morning off with light and positive article like this 🙂

    I really enjoyed the introduction as I completely agree with you on making our daily life, daily job and the whole journey like an art form. I mean we can literally transform all of our activities into some sort of it. And art requiers open mind and living heart. Obsession with planing, how precise it is. I think often of it, whether to got with the flow or write your goals every time and just plan out everything. Since I started care less about my job and people’s opinion I felt relief and joy, well at least I can feel it more often now. I can clearly see what is wrong around so not be caught into everyday drama to satisfy society 😀

    And rules are there just to create an illusion. From ‘The Matrix’ movie when Morpheus is telling Neo about rules: ‘some of them can can be bent. Others…can be broken.’ We can change rules, we can set them to work for ourselves. We really can and should do.

    You’ve also listed two highly important points for me, Tim, and I hugely appreacite it. Keep walking towards the mountain. You know, I have a t-shirt which says ‘Mountains are calling and I must go’. I love it so much and it has great meaning for me. My mountain has a strong call for me and I can feel it now. I can hear it. And to make it sure, it has to be an adventure, not a daily chore to grind. Only make things that feels like an adventure sounds like sweet sweet fruit haha, I want to taste every day!

    I also like how you said – when you feel naked, you’re starting to get it right – it just feels so right indeed 🙂 Recently I started to feel more comfy at my job, most likely becaue I let it all go and decided not to worry much about. But under the comfort mask I yet begin to feel I am pulling myself into the trap of corporate world again, and as a result, feel more stress. It’s a paradox actually where your comfort bring you your ‘beloved’ stress and pain back, eventually. I want to feel naked again so let’s get off some clothes man! There’s a fantasy book called ‘The Masked Empire’. It’s about one province where people wear masks on reagular basis so to not show who they really are in order to be match others expectation and be someone else. I think this explanation fits well for our world, where most people wear those masks to hide their issues and to hide from the world.

    I also adore the fact you agree on copying things first and then transform them into something unique and you. And I did not know that Tony Robbins was teaching Napoleon Hill’s work. I knew he learned from him, and I admire them both. You see, in the modern world with lots of creative minds it may happen two persons may work on the same thing, or vene more than two. I see nothing wrong in copying someones work as long as if you will create your own as well, travelling down your journey.

    And yes, fake it until you make it! The only thing that matters is our perception of oursleves and ow we beileve we actually good. Days are neutral, it’s only us who make them good or bad.

    Wonderful pice of art, Tim, enoyed every bit of it 🙂 Glad you feel good and find your daily motivation, keep on going, my friend! I very much appreciate what you do!
    Much love, speak soon, my friend~

    • Toño thanks for yet another round up of one of my posts. I am reading Vishen Lakhiani’s book right now and I am convinced the traditional rules are BS. The mountain analogy has also been very powerful for me as well. It’s easy to forget about the mountain and veer of track. Speak soon Toño.

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