Why I Would Make A Terrible Graduation Speaker

I have never been asked to speak to a graduating class at any level of school. In the remote possibility someone does ask, I offer this blog post proving that I would be the worst speaker ever.

I don’t have a problem speaking to a group, tailoring a message to the group and making a point. The big issue would be the topics I cover. Most graduation speeches I have heard are an exercise in inspirational self-deception, but not my speech.

“For some of you, school was the best time of your life and the future will not be rosy. Without the structure of a school, you will have difficulty adjusting to life on your own terms.”

“For some, school was pure agony and you are happy to be finished with it. You might be consumed with trying to prove doubters wrong. Living with a chip on your shoulder is not a good life.”

“There is a good chance you will not have a fulfilling life of intellectual and emotionally stimulating work that has much eternal significance at all.”

“Some here will achieve their dreams and find a measure of happiness. Some will achieve their dreams and find them hollow and unfulfilling. Others will never achieve their dreams. “

“You will be competing and dealing with people two and three times your age who won’t give up their jobs without a fight.  They might be threatened by you and not be the mentor you seek.”

“Men need to work with or compete with women and visa versa. No more isolating yourselves with people your age and gender. Sometimes it won’t be a good experience.”

You won’t hear that from graduation speakers. But you would from me. I must have the spiritual gift of discouragement or something.

If I ran my own author-training school (which if they knew ahead of time I would be speaking at graduation would have no students), here is the text of my brief remarks at the closing ceremony:

“Good afternoon graduates. Over the last several years, we have done everything in our power to impart to you the knowledge of writing books and publishing. Now you stand on the threshold of your destiny as authors.

But we have saved some information until today on the occasion of your graduation. These are crucial issues you have not yet heard that will make everything else work better in your writing career once understood.

From the look on your faces, I see you appear to be confused. While you are about to embark on a great mysterious journey called publishing we have prepared you for almost every situation.  I said almost every situation.

So, here they are:

Get a day job that supports your life. Anything. Something just to pay the bills. It will be years before you earn a penny from writing books.

You will be rejected by an agent or publisher for the simple fact that they are having a bad day. Their morning coffee spilled on their smart phone and now they have to get a new one.

You will see books published that aren’t as good as yours and it will really make you angry.

Books you consider poorly written will earn millions of dollars in royalties and while you get all five-star reviews on Amazon, your book will sell hundreds.

Your favorite editor who “gets you” decides to go off the grid and hunt for Big Foot in Washington State.

The ship carrying your books from the printer in China will be stopped in the harbor by a longshoreman strike and you show up to your big book signing for 150 friends with no books and 150 people who vow to never let this happen again.

Your Facebook page will be hacked and you will be selling prescription drugs from India instead of your book.

There is a good chance that the first book you publish will be your last.

So, dear friends, as you go forth from these hallowed halls, we wish the best of luck on your careers. You will need it.”

That should just about do it. I have bought myself another five years of immunity from graduation speaking. I’ll schedule another frightful blog post for a few years down the road to buy more time.

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