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Joss Whedon’s Guide to Life

As you may have heard, everyone’s favorite vampire slayer-creating, Avengers-assembling writer/director, Joss Whedon, gave the commencement speech at his alma mater Wesleyan University, and unsurprisingly, it was kind of great. But that shouldn’t come as a surprise; throughout his career, both in the dialogue he’s written and the many good interviews he’s given, Whedon always comes across as an old soul filled with great wisdom. So with that in mind, here’s a couple dozen nuggets of advice from your self-appointed “Uncle Joss.”

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Remind yourself that you have the right to exist.

“That moment, where you stand up and say, ‘I have the right to exist.’ I’ve written it a lot of times, and I never get tired of writing it. And if I could just believe it about myself, I think I could stop writing it.” (GQ, 2012)

“I guess because I grew up small and afraid of everything, and apart from the fact that I’m no longer small, nothing has changed. Every moment that I love is the moment when a character basically stands up and says ‘I have the right to exist.’ And that’s something I have yet to do as a person. But I can write it quite eloquently.” (Forbes, 2012)

Listen to your own voice.

“Ultimately the best work comes when somebody’s fucked the system; done the unexpected and let their own personal voice into the machine that is moviemaking. Choose your battles. You wouldn’t get Paul Thomas Anderson, or Wes Anderson, or any of these guys if all moviemaking was completely cookie-cutter. But the process drives you in that direction; it’s a homogenizing process, and you have to fight that a bit. There was a point while we were making Firefly when I asked the network not to pick it up: they’d started talking about a different show.” (Hotdog, 2006)

“Paint like them before you can paint like you.”

“I have abused language. I love it and I abuse it…. I don’t write just to be clever. But sometimes I do. And if you don’t have an understanding of the language, then the way in which it’s bent doesn’t actually register. It’s the old you-gotta-paint-like-them-before-you-can-paint-like-you thing.” (Wired, 2012)

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