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. For example, you want to make TV because you LOVE TV. There is stuff that you just LOVE.
So you have really good taste. But you get into this thing where there is this gap. For the first couple years you are making stuff… but what you’re making isn’t so good. It’s not that great. It’s trying to be good, it has ambition to be good, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, your taste is still killer. And your taste is good enough that you can tell that what you’re making is a disappointment to you. It’s still sorta crappy.
A lot of people never get past this phase. They quit. But the thing I would say to you with all my heart: most everyone I know who does interesting, creative work, went through years of this. We knew our work didn’t have this special thing that we wanted it to have. Everybody goes through this.
If you are just starting this phase, still in this phase, getting out of this phase, you gotta know it’s totally normal and the most important, possible thing you can do is do a lot of work. Do a huge volume of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week or every month you know you will finish one story. You create the deadline. It’s best if you have someone waiting for the work, even if it’s somebody that doesn’t pay you. 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.
In my case, I took longer to figure out how to do this than anybody I’ve ever met. It takes awhile. It’s going to take you awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. And you just have to fight your way through that.
Ira Glass is the host and producer of This American Life. This is part 3 of 4 from an interview with him which you can find on youtube. (runtime 5:20).