Neil Gaiman's 2012 Commencement Speech [Video]

This link was originally published before the launch of The Spark Journal. I will be republishing (and lightly editing, in some cases) a handful of such things in the coming days, mainly because I feel they're worth seeing twice. My apologies if this annoys anyone.


Somehow I completely missed out on watching this speech until recently. It seems like the kind of thing I should have come across sooner, since my internet friends presumably would have been linking it left and right at the time. But I guess better late than never right?

Here are a few of my favorite highlights, with accompanying time markers:

[1:51] - “First of all, when you start out on a career in the arts, you have no idea what you're doing. This is great. People who know what they're doing know the rules, and they know what is possible, and what is impossible. You do not, and you should not.”


[2:10] “The rules on what is possible and impossible in the arts were made by people who had not tested the bounds of the possible by going beyond them. And you can. If you don't know it's impossible, it's easier to do. And because nobody's done it before, they haven't made up rules to stop anyone doing that particular thing again.”


[19:29] “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.”

Introducing: the Spark Journal

So, I have an announcement to make. Nothing world-shattering, but worth mentioning all the same (and those of you who visited the site over the weekend already know about it anyway).

Henceforth, this site will no longer be known as Unretrofied. Instead, I welcome you to The Spark Journal.

Let's go ahead and get the admin stuff out of the way:

  • The new domain is sparkjournal.net. Please update your bookmarks accordingly.

    (Theoretically, if you visit any old unretrofied.com links (or, say, you still have the old URL bookmarked), you should still be directed to the proper destination. At least, it's worked with all the links I've tried so far.)

  • There's also a new RSS feed. Again, subscribers to the old Unretrofed feed shouldn't have to do anything because I've switched the feed URL on my end. If you do run into any issues, try unsubscribing from the old one and resubscribing to the new one. I apologize for any inconvience.
  • New Twitter account: @thesparkjournal
  • New App.net account: @sparkjournal (for those of you still clinging to the dream, maaaaaan)
  • New contact email: chris@sparkjournal.net
  • I've created a weekly email newsletter containing all of that week's posts. If that sounds like your thing, you can find the subscribe form on the About page. Goes out every Saturday morning.
  • The site has a new look! If you're reading this in RSS, click through and check it out. I tweaked a lot of CSS this past week and finally settled on something I'm happy with.

    The most obvious changes involve updated typography, a new overall color scheme, and a slightly nicer layout (I finally figured out why the entire blog index was shifted slightly to the left rather than centered, despite having margin: auto !important; configured in CSS: I was missing one teensy little Squarespace-made selector that controls the so-called "blog list").

  • Along with the new name, The Spark Journal will exist within a different "blog" on my same Squarespace account (i.e. sparkjournal.net/journal). It will look as though the old Unretrofied content has disappeared, but you can still find it at sparkjournal.net/blog and sparkjournal.net/archive-old.

Feel free to skip the rest of this post if you don't want to read a long-winded story about the change. Enjoy the new digs! —Ed.

* * *

So why the sudden name change? Well actually, this decision has been a long time coming. I remember emailing Shawn Blanc a year ago to ask what he thought about my idea to burn Unretrofied to the ground and starting something new. I couldn't quite articulate why I wanted this, I just knew it was time for a change.

He gave me lots of good advice, particularly this:

“It's the content that matters, not where it lives.”

And he's right, a new domain and CMS won't make me a better or more dedicated writer. If I wanted to change the editorial direction of the site on a whim, I totally could. Wouldn't be the first time.

Even so, I haven't really identified with the Unretrofied "brand" (blegh) for a long time. The site started as a very Apple-centric blog, and I honestly don't care much about that sort of thing anymore. And despite my own feelings on the matter, many readers still see me as a purely tech-oriented writer. If you want proof, look at the names of the Twitter lists I'm a part of.

Don't get me wrong, I still enjoy (and will continue to write about) nerdy things like apps and using an iPad as one's primary device. Even as I write this, the big review I've been writing about Day One is calling my name from my drafts folder. It's just that my interests have expanded beyond the tech world and it's about time the site's name reflected that.

What I care about are the people who make things, and I care about helping people who struggle to make their thing. I want to write in a way that inspires others to do awesome stuff rather than drifting through a dreary rat-race life. I want to tell better stories. I want to try new things. As Chase Reeves might put it, I want to do things that are matterful.

This brings us to where the "spark" in Spark Journal comes from. Many months ago, I started keeping a list of my favorite words in Drafts, thinking I could maybe turn one or two of them into a new site title. Lots of good combinations came from this list, but "spark" was always the one that stuck in my mind most.

When people speak of inspiration or creativity or genius or adventure or love, they often refer to the spark of that thing. It was the best possible word I could think of to describe where I wanted this site to go.

The journal part of the name is merely a natural extension of my love of journaling and my rekindled interest in handwriting and notebooks and such. Plus I just like the word :)

I'll stop rambling now, and I hope you'll join me on this new journey. I have lots of ideas and things I want to do here, and couldn't be more excited about what's to come.

“A computer will make something perfectly square, perfectly spherical, and that’s just ugly and boring. All of your time is spent kind of messing it up, which is the opposite of most people’s jobs…the real world is a big old mess and most people’s time is spent tidying it up.”

Suzanne Slatcher, former technical director at Pixar