Last Friday I threw myself a little self-pity party out of frustration over my inability to finish writing something I deem worthwhile. Fueled by pepperoni pizza and a couple of bottles of Woodchuck hard cider, I rattled off several paragraphs of grumbling that I planned on posting so that you, too, could party with me — and perhaps bring some cheese to go with my whine.
Wanna read it? It goes a little something like this:
Sometimes I wish I were good at something different. Sometimes I wish I had the natural talent to draw. The Husband and I go to the Heroes Convention in Charlotte every June, and I watch these artists create amazing images that people will plop down $20, $50, $100 and even more to take home. I know this because we’ve done it ourselves.
Sometimes I think it’d be easier if I were good at numbers and math — if I weren’t bored by science — and had some lab job somewhere making big bucks for scientific discoveries.
Sometimes I’d love to be able to make gorgeous crafts by hand — piece together stunning quilts, sew stylish frocks, carve wow-inducing wooden creations, and sell them all in an Etsy store. Instead, I have these mediocre attempts at stationery.
Sometimes being good with words is just frustrating because it seems so underappreciated. Everyone doesn’t mind paying to have a newspaper or magazine delivered to the front porch, but people balk at paying for content online. Millions of women would rather read a degenerate “love story” about a college grad who is basically an older man’s sex slave. We’d rather watch a barely-out-of-her-teens kid strip down to her plastic lingerie and bend over in front of a dude on a stage than someone who can belt a song a capella with no microphone and bring tears to our eyes.
We choose spectacle over substance time and time again, and it’s maddening and depressing because I don’t do spectacle. I want to write stuff that’s got more meat than a chicken raised on hormones. But I feel so far behind — like it’s all out there in front of me, this huge tsunami and all I’ve got to cling to is a damn surfboard.
Oof, that’s painful to read. However, earlier this week, I rifled through some of my Evernote “notebooks” — mainly the one where I “clip” online writing articles — and I found this gem from Ira Glass:
Nobody tells this to people who are beginners. I wish someone had 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 of 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 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.
Yeah, and that deflated my little black, self-pity party balloon. So I post this for anyone feeling the same way, and to remind myself that it takes as long as it takes.