June 27, 2011

Your taste is why your own work disappoints you

My friend Arthur linked me to this video interview with Ira Glass, host and producer of This American Life. In the interview, Glass talks about creative work (transcription from the Design Talk blog):
“What nobody tells people who are beginners — and I really wish someone had told this to me — is that all of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap.
For the first couple years you make stuff, and it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you.
A lot of people never get past this phase. They quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know it’s normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It takes awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You just have to fight your way through.”

This applies to any creative field. In the same interview, Glass also shares an example of a story he did while still closing his gap, which I found hilarious and inspiring:

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