By Lori Hope Baumel
Originally appeared in Around Wellington Magazine on July 1, 2013
“Life is sometimes hard — that things will go wrong in love and business and friendship and health, and in all the other ways that life can go wrong. And that the best thing an artist can do at those times is to “make good art.”
– Neil Gaiman
The graduation parties are over. We’re taking down the streamers and decorations. Graduates are now knocking on doors or trying to get their foot into one. What makes us envious of a graduate looking toward the promise of tomorrow? When attending a wedding, we witness the unification of a couple starting a new life together. Many of us have already experienced the splendor of our own academic commencement or the sanctification of a beautiful wedding day. We have our day in the sun, and then what?
The ability to “start fresh” is always enticing. We often say, “I was that graduate, I was that bride or groom.” What happens to our mindset thereafter? We change our perspective. It is very difficult to feel like each day is the day after graduation.
On May 14, 2013, I was listening to Neal Conan interview author Neil Gaiman on National Public Radio’s Talk of the Nation. The topic was Gaiman’s newly published book entitled Make Good Art. The book is adapted from his 2012 commencement speech delivered to the students at Philadelphia’s University of the Arts. I was extremely moved by the interview. Within minutes of Conan’s closing statements, I watched the speech on Vimeo and then downloaded the newly published e-book. Needless to say, it made me pause for reflection.
I often ask myself, “Why were the days I delivered my children the most beautiful days of my life?” I hardly looked or felt beautiful. My husband was slightly frazzled, and tired. Yet, we were extremely excited because each miraculous child that entered our world was an opportunity to “make good art” of our very own. We created three unique individuals that we delight in having conversations with. Yes, our children are still works in progress, but aren’t we all?
Let’s get the bragging rights over with. I have produced over 250 commercials, written soundtracks for Emmy award winning television and published six music compositions with noted publishing companies. I accomplished many of my lifelong dreams. I am often asked, “What was your greatest production?” The answer is always the same: my children.
Still, I am not in the least bit satisfied. I am continually striving to create a better “me” and I encourage my children to do the same. We often perceive summertime as the halfway point of the year. I especially do, as my birthday is July 1st. News Year’s Eve is my “half birthday.” How lucky I am to be given a fresh new start in the midst of the summer months.
For July and August, picture yourself as a newly minted graduate knocking on a door of opportunities. Wake up each day and say, “I’m going to do everything in my power to have an adventure. I will make good art.” Then take eight minutes or eight weeks to do it.
Live… Go… Do!
Top Five List For Summer 2013
In continuing with the theme of this article, I highly recommend this simple assignment…
Neil Gaiman’s Make Good Art speech on Vimeo for 20 minutes. As time goes by, it is harder and harder for me to get excited about mediocre things. When I finally latch onto a spark of inspiration, I want to share it and make a difference in other people’s lives. Therefore, I urge you to watch this video and pass it on.
2) Read (or download the e-book):
Make Good Art by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Chip Kidd. Enjoy a sweet, simple work of art unto itself. Do not read the book without viewing the video first. It will not feel the same.
You can also listen to the Conan/Gaiman interview on NPR’s Talk of the Nation at:
3) Spend some creative “one on one” time with a child:
Whether it is your own child, grandchild or a friend’s child. It’s summertime, you can dread it and count the days before the kids go back to school or you can relish in the homework-free afternoons. If your own kids are no longer under your roof, give a mom or dad in your life a break. Do the things you were too tired to do when you felt like the “old woman who lived in the shoe.”
Are you in the mood for a one-day outing? Rather than the usual trip to Disney World, consider a short journey to the Edison & Ford Winter Estates in Fort Myers, FL. Explore the lives and laboratories of men whose epiphanies changed the world.
For more information see:
5) Be spontaneous!
Head north to the Kennedy Space Center and Museum, Cape Canaveral, FL.
On Saturday, July 20, 1994, we heard on the morning news that it was the 25th anniversary of the landing on the moon. All types of special events were going on at Kennedy Space Center. In the midst of folding my second load of laundry of the morning I had an epiphany. I looked up at my husband and said, “You want to go?” He didn’t even blink. We packed up the baby bottles and diaper bag, stuffed the kids into the van and without Google maps or a GPS we drove up there. Within hours of the TV broadcast, we were reliving the wonders of Neil Armstrong’s first steps. It was one of the most spontaneous days of our lives!
Hmm… let me check my calendar. July 20th falls on a Saturday again this year…
Embrace the summer.
Have an epiphany.
Make good art!