“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. 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, 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 its 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 piece. 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 a while. It’s normal to take a while. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.” – Ira Glass
I like this quote. I think it nicely explains something that is true for us all – that nobody is born an expert at anything. We only become experts, or good at something, through a lot of practice and hard work.
I’m still in the first phase that Ira Glass talks about. My work is not that great yet. It doesn’t have the “special thing” that it needs. As I read other articles or blog posts I often find that they are a lot better than mine. Some have a more natural writing style which flows off the page, or some might be able to better convey their author’s personalities.
I have written articles for other websites in the past, but they didn’t publish them. They didn’t say so, but I suspect they weren’t good enough. I still got paid for a couple of them though, so there’s a silver lining!
I want to be a better writer. I want people to enjoy what I write. I know my writing is not bad, but I know that there is room for improvement. There are a lot of people who can write more fluently than me, and when I read their work to be honest it’s a bit disheartening. Their writing is a lot more engaging, funny and easier to read than mine.
But I know that it’s no accident that these people are so good at what they do. They obviously put in a lot of effort and practice to get as good as they are today. At some point in their life their writing probably sucked. But now someone is willing to pay them for it.
Like Ira Glass said “the most important thing you can do is to do a lot of work”. THAT’S what I need to do to improve. How to do it? Glass says “Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one piece.” That’s exactly what I’m going to do.
Every Monday I will publish a new blog post from now on, and hopefully over time my writing will improve. Up to now I’ve been publishing them at random times every month, which was working okay, but it’s not giving me regular writing practice.
It’s like me and chess. When I was at University, even though I was president of the chess society, I didn’t really play the game that much. Some people were totally passionate about it and you could see that they lived and breathed the game. But I was just an average or below average player. I just bumbled through games making it up as I went and hoping for the best.
Now, about three years later I’ve come on leaps and bounds and I play chess every day. I’m now one of those people who are passionate about chess. I played games every day and I learned from my opponents what moves worked and what didn’t. My ratings shot up over the course of a summer and now I am miles away from where I used to be, and I often beat players who are higher ranked than me.
The same can be true with writing, or anything really that requires a skill. By writing one post a week I will get good practice and I can learn from other bloggers posts about what works and what doesn’t. It will be good to look back one year from now and see if I’ve made much progress.
The point I’m trying to make with all this is that all of us are capable of becoming experts in something, provided we are willing to work hard enough. It’s passion and perseverance that really matters. Everything is hard before it is easy.