When you’re starting out as a writer, your work is not going to live up to your expectations. You will imagine something wonderful, and the end result will be not so wonderful. It’s at this point that many, many people give up. The only trick is not to give up.
Here’s the wonderful Ira Glass addressing this dilemma and what to do about it.
Ira Glass makes some great points here, and plus look how adorable and charming, oh my god. I want to put him in my pocket and carry him around all day. (Don’t judge my odd fetishes.) (It’s actually just that one. Ira Glass in the pocket. I have a support group online for it.) I could not agree with him more when he says the only answer is to work, to just churn out material because it’s the only way to get better. We all know I’ve said it enough. (Probably to get Ira Glass’s attention.)
I’m going to differ with him a bit, however, on one point. According to Ira, once you’ve reached a certain level, there’s no more gap.
Oh, Ira, no! Get in my pocket and listen! There must always be a gap. Yes, in the beginning of your work that gap will be wider. Yes, you want to shorten the gap. You always want to reach for your goal. But there must always be some distance between where you want to be, and where you are. This can be uncomfortable, but it’s how you get better. If there’s no gap, there’s nowhere to go. I suppose there might come a time when you realize you’ve reached the pinnacle of your abilities, but I don’t want to be there, personally. That destination just sounds like death.
When you exercise, you push yourself to reach a goal that’s just beyond your grasp. If you work only within your abilities, you don’t get any stronger. It’s the same with writing and any kind of creative work. (We’re just like athletes! Athletes who sit down a lot!) Practice might make perfect, but perfection is dull as hell and perfection isn’t art.
The gap does get smaller. You will get better. And next time, you push farther. When the gap shortens, you push your limits just a little farther out for the next time. You learn to enjoy the struggle. You recognize it for what it is. It’s the whole point of creating.
As Ira Glass concludes, brilliantly, “You will be fierce. You will be a warrior. And you will make things that aren’t as good as you know in your heart you want them to be.” May that always be so, for all of us.