I found this on a blog called The Writer Underground, via a Facebook link by Michelle Mathey. Thanks to Michelle for the link and to The Writer Underground for a wonderful blog.
“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.”
Glass is speaking about producing radio, of course, but as the Writer Underground states (and many of his/her readers add in the comments as well), these words apply to any creative endeavor: writing, rubber stamping, any art form at all, teaching, graphic design, advertising, engineering, theoretical physics and any of the basic sciences, gardening, home decorating, fashion, painting your nails. Whatever you want to do well, you do better with practice and can become really good with taste.
There is one distinction I would like to make, however, as Glass's words relate to hobbies as opposed to careers.
You don't need taste to have fun and enjoy the creative process. Whatever you make that makes you happy is good enough.
What Glass addresses is public creativity, the kind that seeks to participate in public discourse. If you want to make a living doing something, you have to plug into the public discourse on the subject. You need to speak the language, learn all the rules (and there are always lots of rules) so you can have good judgment in breaking them, and actively seek to nudge the discourse in new ways that make other people say, "I wish I'd thought of that!"
Hobbies don't need to have this level of ambition to be fun and worthwhile, but if you want to make prettier stuff, stuff that makes your soul happy, you can work on your skills to get there. I find Ira's words relevant to my life as a writer on one level (the public discourse level) and another level as a hobby stamper (the private satisfaction level). Writing comes naturally to me and always has; I work on it constantly, but it's so much fun that it doesn't feel like work...more like a compulsion.
Stamping does not come naturally. For years I experienced that level of disappointment Ira talks about with most of what I made, and I worked hard to close the gap between my design ability and my taste.
Now, however, I've tipped the scale with all that hard work. Most of what I make makes me pretty happy, regardless of my objective opinion about it. I still totally blow it every now and then, like Friday when I tried to make a hot-air balloon card for the OLW100. Yikes. Generally, I see that what I make is good enough, and occasionally I hit a metaphorical home run. But it's all a learning curve, and frankly, I hope I never get it all figured out.
Because then it would be boring and I'd quit.
If you're in that disappointing place where your skill does not meet your taste in this wonderful hobby, take heart from what Ira says. Work hard making stuff. You'll get there eventually.
Because if I can do it, anyone can!
Five years ago, I could not have made this card. Now I can. Five years from now, I might see a dozen things on this card I could have done differently to make it better. But for now, it makes me happy because 1) it was inspired by an article in PaperCrafts about using natural fibers/fabric on cards (this is cheese cloth I picked up at the grocery store), 2) it has two visual triangles (pearls and sand dollars), and 3) it's light and clean and simple.
Life is good, and so is creativity.
So live life and create stuff.
Sounds like a great recipe for happiness to me.
stamps: Papertrey A Day at the Beach
ink: SU sahara sand
paper: PTI white, SU sahara sand
accessories: cheese cloth, half-pearls, glue stick, dimensionals, Martha Stewart sand dollar punch, 7/8" circle punch