Short Story Discussions
Ep3 SSBC Podcast: Make Trouble
In the latest episode of the podcast, SSBC features a review of John Waters’s Make Trouble and an interview with filmmakers Sam Saper and Lynn Tomlinson for their award-winning film Elephant’s Song.
Make Trouble is the printed graduation address of creative genius and Baltimore native John Waters to students at the Rhode Island School of Design. In his speech, he speaks of going against the crowd or finding a place in conventional society and using it subversively to stir things up. Waters has a lot of advice for how to navigate the world, and it is as true for recent graduates as it is for anyone trying to make their mark in an industry.
Every time I read Make Trouble, I walk away thinking about something new. This is what makes this book so wonderful. It’s a short book worth reading several times, both in the sullen moods and in the joyous times punctuating the sweetness of life. It’s the pep talk you wish you had been given that day when you said you’d give up, and the speech you wish you’d received right after you accomplished your latest goal.
As much as Waters has been heralded for his counterculture approach to the world, it’s surprising just how much of what he says fits in line with today’s mainstream wisdom. In fact, Waters speaks the new language of today’s entrepreneurs. When speaking of being your own boss, he shares this experience:
‘But how can you be so disciplined?’ friends always ask when I tell them my job is to get up every day at 6 a.m. Monday to Friday and think up insane stuff.
Easy! If I didn’t work this hard for myself, I’d have to go to work for somebody else.
Later, he acknowledges that sometimes artists can’t always work for themselves. So, he offers this advice to those in an office:
Hopefully, you have been taught never to fear rejection in the workplace.
Remember, a “no” is free. Ask for the world and pay no mind if you are initially turned down.
There are motivational gems like this all through Waters’s speech. Perhaps my favorite is this one:
Remember: You must participate in the creative world you want to become part of.
What does this mean? It means that if you want to be an artist, you have to go out and meet with artistic people. If you want to be in business, you have to get out from behind your comfortable computer screen with your spreadsheets and “marketing” on social media, and instead spend time talking with others in your industry. If you want to be a better person, seek out people living with integrity and learn how to emulate them.
It’s all really simple advice, but sometimes, it’s the simplest messages that can be the most powerful.
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