Friday, June 20, 2014

Creatavita's Second Annual Commencement Address

With a twist.

I was all set to post video of a recent commencement address (recommended by a longtime student, whose daughter happens to be up-and-coming mezzo, Emma Char) and then this happened:

Ever wished that Calvin and Hobbes creator Bill Watterson would return to the comics page?

Which reminded me about Bill Watterson's 1990 address at his alma mater, Kenyon College.

So I changed my mind.

Then late last Friday afternoon, I found the time to search for the video of said address.

No luck.  Not a single video out there of that address.  Not a single video of Bill Watterson.

Watterson is notoriously absent from the Internet, the JD Salinger of cartooning.  Still, I was surprised that I couldn't find the speech.  As I thought about it, I realized Watterson gave the address in 1990 and that meant there were no....ta da....smartphones in the crowd.  Which means there is probably only one recording of the speech, and that is probably owned by Kenyon.  Which means that Watterson only had to convince Kenyon to never upload it to the Internet.     Since he is a successful alum, I bet that wasn't difficult.  Let's hope the physical tape is stored in a vault somewhere.

I did find transcripts of the address and boy howdy, is it a good one.  But, I knew there was no way most of you would ever sit in front of a computer screen and read a commencement address. It wouldn't be top on my list and I'm the creator of the post!  So I decided to take the time to thoughtfully read Watterson's address and post the statements that jumped off the screen at me.  Of course, sometimes I have to pipe in; you'll find my comments in italics.

It's surprising how hard we'll work when the work is just for us.

I notice this all the time.  If I'm creating, whether singing, playing, composing or writing because I want to be, I'm engaged.  Completely.  Hours fly by.  I don't even get hungry.  Which is saying a lot coming from me.  You know that feeling, right?

If' I've learned one thing from being a cartoonist, it's how important playing is to creativity and happiness.

Which made me approach my work more like play, and also reminded me to play more in life.

We're not really taught how to recreate constructively.  We need to do more than find diversions; we need to restore and expand ourselves.  Our idea of relaxing is all too often to plop down in front of the television set and let its pandering idiocy liquefy our brains.  Shutting off the thought process is not rejuvenating; the mind is like a car battery - it recharges by running.

Whatever happened to hobbies?

Out in the world, you'll have to find the inner motivation to search for new ideas on your bright, creative people, you'll be called upon to generate ideas and solutions all your lives.  Letting your mind play is the best way to solve problems.

Inner motivation.  Crucial for professional creators.  Our lives are filled with initiating an idea, taking the first step, presenting our skills because we can't think of anything else we would rather do.  And there's that word play again.

If you indulge your natural curiosity and retain a sense of fun in new experience, I think you'll find it functions as a sort of shock absorber for the bumpy road ahead.  

For years I got nothing but rejection letters, and I was forced to accept a real job.

See?  You and I are NOT the only people who deal with rejection on a regular basis.  Rejection doesn't mean we aren't talented or we aren't good people.  Rejection usually means we aren't the right fit for this project at this time.  That's temporary.

I tell you all this because it's worth recognizing that there is no such thing as an overnight success.

And that can be tough to accept.

You will do well to cultivate the resources in yourself that bring you happiness outside of success or failure.  The truth is, most of us discover where we are headed when we arrive.  At that time, we turn around and say, yes, this is obviously where I was going all along.  It's a good idea to try to enjoy the scenery on the detours, because you'll probably take a few.

To endure five years of rejection to get a job requires either a faith in oneself that borders on delusion, or a love of the work.  I loved the work.

That's a good question to ask every so often.  Do I love this work?

We all have different desires and needs, but if we don't discover what we want from ourselves and what we stand for, we will live passively and unfulfilled.

We defined ourselves by our actions.  With each decision, we tell ourselves and the world who we are.  Think about what you want out of this life, and recognize that there are many kinds of success.

What do you want?  What does a typical day, say a Tuesday, look like in your successful life?  What does success look like for you?  Your unique answer is the one you must seek.

Creating a life that reflects your values and satisfies your soul is a rare achievement.  In a culture that relentlessly promotes avarice and excess as the good life, a person happy doing his own work is usually considered an eccentric, if not a subversive...Someone who takes an undemanding job because it affords him the time to pursue other interests and activities is considered a flake.  A person who abandons a career in order to stay home and raise children is considered not to be living up to his potential - as if a job title and salary are the sole measure of human worth.

Hear hear!  It takes a brave and courageous soul to choose this journey.

To invent your own life's meaning is not easy, but it's still allowed, and I think you'll be happier for the trouble.

Intriqued?  Here's the entire transcript.

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