Software Engineer, Marathoner, Snowboarder & SDE @ Amazon Web Services, Inc.

Make Good Art

June 25, 2015

Sometimes life is hard. Things go wrong in life, and in love, and in business, and in friendship, and in health, and in all the other ways that life can go wrong. And when things get tough, this is what you should do: MAKE GOOD ART!” - Neil Gaiman

“Everybody who is alive on this earth is making, or has ability to make, art (of some form)”. One may wonder how come a software engineer is talking about Art. Since our early days we are taught to choose specific field of study and follow the set path. Engineering, Science, Fine Art, Medical, Politics etc. are some of those fields. Often we forget to teach ourselves one major trait which is common in all of these fields and which makes us human, ART.

I have been coding and developing softwares for almost a decade now, but I never used to consider my work as an art. It was always just a software, a program or an application for me. Don’t take me wrong, I loved my work and gave my best in all of ‘em, but I just never thought of them as an art. In my last semester of masters program, I had privilege of enrolling for the course, Data Visualization taught by Dr. Sharon Hsiao. This subject was not new to me and I had worked on data visualization projects previously. I have been exposed to this amazing and engaging area involving data and design for quite some time. The course was unique because of Dr. Hsiao and her way of engaging graduates, she was the reason this course had an effect on me, which made me reinvent myself.

She encouraged us to look at any project we are working on and try to find the real problem, the fundamental cause due to which the situation demands a fixation. Once we know what really needs to be fixed our job is half way through it. In her final lecture, she did not teach any thing related to the course but she gave us the biggest advice of our lives: to do best in whatever we do and to make good art. She showed us Neil Gaiman’s commencement speech at the University of the Arts in 2012.

I was going to graduate a week after that lecture, the lecture that made me acquainted with Neil Gaiman and the biggest advice I’ve ever received: “Make good art!”. Neil Gaiman’s speech IMHO is the greatest of all time. He meticulously delivered all the advices a graduating senior, master or doctoral candidate should receive. Only a person with a plethora of experience can come up with a bag full of honest and life changing advices. If you know nothing about Neil Gaiman and have never heard about his commencement speech then I would highly recommend you to stop reading this and watch the speech, it will surely have an impact on you too.

Some of his advices are intended for freelance artists and writers, but they can be applied to any discipline. Like, make good art, make mistakes, enjoy your ride (success), be wise and break rules. These advices if followed will definitely make you a better, if not successful, person. Following are the advices (in his own words) which I’ll try my best to follow and would advice others to do so as well.

If you make mistakes, it means you are out there doing something. And the mistakes in themselves could be very useful. Remember whatever discipline you are in, whether you are a musician or a photographer, a fine artist or a cartoonist, a writer, a dancer, a singer, a designer, whatever you do you have one thing thats unique, you have the ability to make art.

[On Freelance world] Their work is good, they are easy to get along with, and they deliver the work on time. And you don’t even need all three. Two out of three is fine.

[Hardest lesson] Let go and enjoy the ride! Because the rides take you to some remarkable and unexpected places.

Luck is useful, often you’ll discover that the harder you work and the more wisely that you work, the luckier you’ll get.

Be wise, because the world needs more wisdom.

And now go and make interesting mistakes, make amazing mistakes, make glorious and fantastic mistakes. Break rules, leave the world more interesting for your being here. Make good art!

So lets make some mistakes, break some rules, be more wise, make this world more interesting, lets make some good art!

Auf wiedersehen!