April 1, 2022
Had a grand time last night in the Journalism Department of Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff where I received the 2022 Associated Press Robert R. Eunson Distinguished Lecturer Award.
On the Balcony of The Drury
I spoke to a room full of journalism students just starting out on their career and their life. I wanted to inspire them and also give them a few of my secret tricks that have worked for me. Here is the Cliff Notes version of my acceptance speech, sans sidebars and goofy asides.
What History Has Taught Me
• When you become a success you must share what works. When I was starting out I wanted to know how to become a writer and an artist but there was no one at my small school who knew (our school was so small they taught driver's ed and sex ed in the same car). So, I made a vow that if I ever learned anything that worked, I would share it and here I am. Without further ado, here are the ten secret tricks that have worked for me.
• Write every day, without hope, without despair. This is why I write a blog because even when I don't feel like writing, I write that.
• When you are stuck, attack from the opposite direction. If the opening isn't working, write the ending. Strive to be loose as a goose. I agree with Ray Bradbury: "Throw up in the morning, clean up in the afternoon."
• It's pretty amazing what you can accomplish when you don't care who gets the credit.
• Be Grateful! Yes, I know, this sounds hokey, but the fact is, we are wired to be negative. This is actually a good thing because it keeps us from getting killed, most of the time. But it's hell on writers and people in the arts. My daughter, Deena, gifted me "The 6-minute Diary" and it literally changed my life. You get up in the morning and before you check your emails, you write down three things you are grateful for and what you hope to accomplish for the day. You repeat the exercise in reverse at the end of the day. It is very, very empowering.
• Steal from your heroes. A few of my artist heroes are Maynard Dixon, Charlie Russell, Frederick Remington, Vincent van Gogh and Moebius and I copy them all the time trying to find what is underneath their methods.
• The Universe is trying to help you, pay attention.
• Work is only work if you'd rather be someplace else.
• Everything in this world tries to be round. The clock, the calendar, the earth, the moon and the moon's orbit. This applies to trends. If someone had told me a year ago that a wagon train show would be a hit on TV I would have laughed them out of the room. If something is out of fashion, it will soon enough be back. What goes around, comes around. Bank on it.
• I saved the best for last. Here is the best secret to a successful career in journalism and art and life. All you need is something to do, someone to love and something to hope for. If you have those three things, ask for no other blessing.
Now go and be successful and you'll know you will have made it when you are standing here where I am, receiving this award and telling a new batch of journalism students what I got so terribly wrong. Nothing would make me more happy.
"The farther up the flagpole you go, the more people can see your rear end."
—Dandy Don Merideth