Neil Gaiman Speech at University of the Arts – Matt Mullenweg

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“Make good art.”

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about 1 year ago

Neil Gaiman – The Best Commencement Speech You May Ever Hear (20 Minutes) – The Blog of Author Tim Ferriss

This will be a short post as, sometimes, brevity counts. I want to let Neil Gaiman speak in this instance. Neil is one of my favorite authors, and I first became fascinated by his imagination with The Sandman comics in the 90’s. So much so, in fact, that I imported The Sandman from different countries to help me learn languages.

The Sandman from Brazil. Wonderful for studying Portuguese, as I have identical English editions.

My love for his work grew from there. From Anansi Boys to The Graveyard Book ( my favorite audiobook of all time ) to Neverwhere , the list of favorites is long.

The above commencement speech, mandatory listening for anyone who hopes to be creatively successful, is right up there with Steve Jobs’ 2005 Stanford commencement speech, which I’ve embedded below. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments on either, as well as links to any favorite speeches of your own.

Related and Recommended

The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 600 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page .

This will be a short post as, sometimes, brevity counts. I want to let Neil Gaiman speak in this instance. Neil is one of my favorite authors, and I first became fascinated by his imagination with …

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Neil Gaiman — The Interview I've Waited 20 Years to Do (

  • How long has this interview been in the making? [09:37]
  • An early interview failure that Neil resolved to never repeat. [10:47]
  • On separating home life from work life and the writing habits of Maya Angelou and Ian Fleming. [15:55]
  • Neil’s biggest rule for writing. [20:16]
  • Neil’s process for writing first drafts. [23:35]
  • What Neil aims to accomplish with his second drafts. [25:49]
  • Something Neil noticed when he first started writing and editing with the use of computers. [26:28]
  • What notebooks does Neil prefer for writing first drafts? [29:13]
  • Fountain pens Neil has known and loved. [35:21]
  • How many book signings does it take to get to the bottom of a Pilot 823’s structural capacity? How about Neil’s signing hand? How many such pens given in sacrifice by Neil’s three-year-old will appease his house gods? [39:39]
  • Neil’s journey from manual typewriter to electric typewriter to computer to notebook, and the power of trivializing weighty endeavors — whether they’re writing novels or going for gold medals. [41:49]
  • How Coraline went from being an unpublishable labor of love for Neil’s children to an award-winning novella. [47:48]
  • Does Neil tend to work on multiple projects at once? [53:22]
  • Why does Neil take particular delight in writing introductions to other people’s work? [55:24]
  • At what time of day does Neil prefer to work, and has this changed over the years? [56:50]
  • Advice to aspiring novelists about finding a routine: The more you can be like Phil Connors in Groundhog Day , the better. [59:35]
  • The importance of understanding that just because we do something one way today doesn’t mean we’ll be doing it that way tomorrow. [1:01:28]
  • How a touching post on Neil’s blog (which I recommend everyone read) inspired me to adopt my own dog, Molly. [1:03:16]
  • What’s the genesis story of The Graveyard Book? [1:04:10]
  • Neil makes the case for giving the ensemble version of The Graveyard Book a listen. [1:15:29]
  • Who was Terry Pratchett, and how did he and Neil strike up a friendship? [1:16:24]
  • On working with Douglas Adams and the germ of the idea that became Neil and Terry’s collaboration, Good Omens . [1:20:12]
  • Neil shares his preposterous writing schedule from simultaneously working on Good Omens, Sandman, and The Books of Magic — something only someone very insane (or very young) could possibly handle. [1:23:08]
  • Why, after so many misfires trying to get Good Omens on the screen, we’ll finally see an uncompromising television adaptation soon. [1:24:30]
  • Where to find out more about Good Omens — the book and the series. [1:30:58]
  • What does Neil feel he learned most from his “apprenticeship” with Terry? [1:32:40]
  • How did Terry approach his own mortality when he learned he had Alzheimer’s disease? [1:34:45]
  • Before he passed away, Terry opened up a controversial dialogue around the right to die for people with terminal diseases like Alzheimer’s. What is Neil’s view? [1:38:14]
  • What would Terry think of the Good Omens series and its related fanfare? How might things have gone differently if he’d been directly involved in production? [1:39:50]
  • Time flies when you’re interviewing Neil Gaiman. (For the record, I hope to fly again sooner than later.) [1:45:09]
  • Parting thoughts. [1:46:03]

is one .


    1. .

  1. This was my treat for the day. I tackled all the don’t-want-to-do-stuff with the promise that listening to this interview would be my reward for getting all that done. And indeed it was. THANK YOU, Tim. You are interviewer extraordinaire. I’ve always loved how you go deep for the details with your guests and don’t just keep moving through questions for the sake of ticking off the boxes. What an absolute pleasure it was watching the youtube version of this interview, listening to Neil’s thoughtful and beautifully articulated answers to your questions, and seeing just how he thinks and creates his magic on the page. And yes.. (!) I am going to ask for a lovely fountain pen for my birthday this June. 🙂


    Confessions: I’ve listened to almost every podcast, and I’ve never said thank you to you. I think it all the time, but that’s not loud enough and I’m sorry. I knew this one was going to be special. I started listening on a beautiful walk around a bay, but I had to finish in my bathroom because I needed to color my hair. I got the medium brown in, but then your 90 minutes were up. I teared up. It wasn’t the chemicals. It was the conversation.

    My favorite parts/takeaways: when Neil’s daughter Maddy asked him, “what happens next?” (making Graveyard Book story), and when he talked about allowing for accidents and randomness and what happens when things grow (Good Omens).

    My hair is now pitch black, but it’s worth it. Thank you for architecting and gardening, Tim and Neil.

    Tim, thank you x 366 x extra for the episodes I’ve listened to more than once + 5 big books worth of thanks + interest on the overdue thanks, and since I’m getting it all out before I wash my hair, thank you to Derek Sivers for his generosity and guidance and for recommending the 4-Hour Workweek in the first place. Without Derek’s introduction, my hair would not be going goth right now and the mind it covers would not have been opened to a world of great conversation and learning.

  3. Tim,

  4. The Graveyard Book (audio) is one of my favourites as well. I remember going for a camping trip with Mum and convincing her to listen to it with me (I knew she would love it!). The tents would be set up, dinner cooked, and to the sounds of wild life and a running creek, we would lay down on a picnic rug and listen to the next couple of chapters. <3

    I really enjoyed this interview, it was inspiring and soul touching, so much variety covered, so much to explore and delve into, so many things learned and advice to take on board. The parts I especially loved:

    *making a decision is work – don't just write and write and fill up your words with gas.

    *choose to do nothing, or write.

    *Terry's willingness to go forward, not knowing what happens next.

    Thank you both =)

  5. Dig
    1. .

  6. Fantastic conversation with Mr Gaiman. I listened to this while digging up my backyard to build a patio (a very systematic endeavor with just a spade shovel) and somehow it was the perfect combination of things.

    “I go to a place and I can write or I can do nothing.”

    What a simple yet ingenious rule to inspire one to write. Some days it is just hard to pick up the pen. I recently did something similar, locking myself away in a barn loft without WiFi or cell service and went full FBR on a text. It truly works – writing is better than nothing!

“The biggest problem we run into is going, ‘This is who I am, this is what I’m like, this is how I function’ while failing to notice that you don’t do that anymore.&#8…

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