Fantastic Advice for Beginners in the Creative Industry

Here's an oldie but goodie about the secret of success in creative work. It was a talk given by Ira Glass which was then turned into an animation by David Shiyang Liu. It's less than 2-minutes long and has some fantastic advice for creatives. I have witnessed a lot of friends in the industry really struggling with their own work right now and so I thought sharing this would be relevant for all those in the same position. Read after the jump for the entire quote.

“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 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.” - Ira Glass

[Via Swiss-Miss]

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Paul Hance's picture

Great Post Trevor.

I can sum it up a lot faster.
"you suck! but you can choose to try again and get better OR you can continue to suck and then quit"

no... he say that everybody suck at first and you are not exception....

Jens Marklund's picture

I thought this guy sounded a lot like Ira Glass. And much to my surprise...

I'm a living proof that's he's right. I've been in that phase for 20 years now... Fortunately, creativity is not part of my day job - so I make a good living. Creativity is part of my hobbies and this is here it hurts.

He's right that people usually start out bad and just have to keep working in order to get better. The phenomenon he's describing has to do with the cycle of generations. When a young person starts in photography he is new and competing in a market filled with folks that have 20 years or more experience. Of course, the new guy usually isn't going to be as good as the competition just by sheer fact of his being new. As each year goes by, the folks that constituted the scene when he began start to slowly quit and fade away. If the one-time new guy refuses to give up, after 20 years in the game he becomes the old timer in the scene. At that point, he only has to be mediocre but will still be considered awesome by the new generation of beginners that has just started the new cycle.

What's the lesson to be learned? The lesson is that young persistent photographers will eventually find success (regardless of talent) if for no other reason than that the original generation that constituted the market when they began disappears from the game. But it doesn't happen overnight and is a process that takes decades. Twenty years is a good number to assign to the phenomenon because that's about how long it takes for a 40 year old to become 60 and retire while a 20 year old becomes 40 and is at the peak of his career. At the end of the generational process, even mediocre photographers appear to have "awesome talent" by all of the newbs that are just starting. And some of us that have been in the game for awhile can remember back when we first started and were in awe of photographers that actually weren't that good in hindsight.

Tom Lew's picture

Ira Glass.... what a man. This American Life woot woot

Does anyone have a decent quality version of the original video (not the kinetic text version)? The "official" upload on the IPR channel of YouTube here:

is 240p and an incredibly awful frame rate.