When I’m struggling to find my way, to remind myself why I left a full time job to go out on my own and do something more creative, I seek out this guy – Ira Glass – a radio God. Not the only radio God. One of many but Gareth put me on to his wise words, which I’ve shared over and over again. With people like myself, seeking some reassurance. Have a read and take solace from one of the most successful radio producers in the world.
“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.”
Because the reality is pursuing a creative life is often a lonely, disheartening path. For a lot of it, you are the only voice of reason. You are your biggest fan and it can be hard to not lose faith. I recently had a conversation about this with my stepdad, an engineer. A very practical man, creative in his own right. Probably should have been an architect but that’s another story. What was surprising was realising how unaware he was. See it’s simple. In a ‘straight forward’ career, as you progress there are often people along the way to give you words of encouragement that help signify you’re on the right track. Even if you’re your own boss, if you get a contract (which of course can be difficult to begin with) and you do a good job you’re more than likely to see a repeat business. The creative path is not as simple. It can take years of putting yourself out there, pitching for work, auditioning for jobs, making art, radio, writing stories etc before you even get paid, let alone get praise. Often, some form of success has to materialise before you can even get a full time job from your work. And don’t even start me on job security. There is none! It was an interesting moment watching him process this. But even more fascinating for me, was realising these differences had never occurred to him.
I’m sure he’s not alone. Why think about the difficulties of this life if it doesn’t affect you?
God, that sounds so trite when you think of the real difficulties people are experiencing in places like Syria, Turkey, Palestine among other places.
I can’t even say it’s all relative. It’s not. I know it’s not.
But… it’s a real concern if you’re relying on this life to pay your bills. When you are the only one telling yourself you can do this! You can succeed. That you are on the right path. And well, it’s exhausting.
So I turn back to my hero – Ira Glass – for reassurance.
“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 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.”
It is reassuring to know that we’re not alone. And although we may never succeed, there is hope that the path you’ve chosen, should you preserver, will amount to something.
Check out This American Life if you’re not familiar with Ira Glass.
Thanks again to Unsplash.com for the image