Ira Glass on Work

“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’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”

– Ira Glass

I found this neat little passage ages ago, back when I was in the quote-hunting stage of my writing journey.

You know that stage, right? It’s when want to do something, but the actual doing of it is hard, so you read books on doing it and search for quotes on doing it and you print them out and post them on your walls desperately hoping that they’ll make your work easier.

They never do make the work easier, at least not two times in a row. But a few nuggets of wisdom can be gleaned from that phase. These words have stuck with me and continue to stick with me.

I don’t know if you noticed, but I took a rather long break from blogging. I thought I was too busy. I’m going to school now, working full time, writing a book, preaching. Lots of stuff going on. I figured that blogging was, at best, a distraction.

Strangely, when I stopped blogging, my writing started to suffer. And the writing is so important to me that the other parts of my life started to suffer with it. I grew less focused on school and preaching and felt like I did not perform as well as I could have.

Because the blogging was not really a distraction. It was the bull-pen. It was warm up. Practice.

What kind of athlete would you be if you only played when there was a game? A frustrated, crappy athlete.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m going to start blogging regularly again. Maybe I will. Maybe not. But I’ve remembered that the only way to get better at something is to do it a thousand times. And if I’m only writing when I’m writing my book, it’s like I’m only showing up for games and skipping practice. And that’s just dumb.