You know you are not good enough. You know your skills are not as good as they can be.
You know you are not where you want to be, and it bothers you.
But don’t despair. I came across a talk with Ira Glass. Where he talks about a gap…
….all of us who do creative work … we get into it because we have good taste. But it’s like there’s a gap, that for the first couple years that you’re making stuff, what you’re making isn’t so good, OK? It’s not that great. It’s really not that great. It’s trying to be good, it has ambition to be good, but it’s not quite that good.
‘…everybody I know who does interesting creative work, they went through a phase of years where they had really good taste and they could tell what they were making wasn’t as good as they wanted it to be — they knew it fell short, it didn’t have the special thing that we wanted it to have.’
He called that exactly right. I too can see my own shortcomings on the work that I produce. I see what I write, and know I can do better. But in this early stage my skills are not equal to the task.
That is the gap.
But I feel this analogy doesn’t just apply to creative pursuits, but also to our own lives. I have had this idealised version of myself in my head ever since school. It has become more realistic over the years. Now I see my ideal self as a successful artist/writer and entrepreneur. I see the work that I do as something of quality and value.
I see what I want to be, but I am not there yet. There again is that blasted gap.
That gap of talent is the problem, for all of us. But it can also be viewed as a solution.
What we do with that gap will determine our future. We can ignore it, thinking it’s too difficult to close it.
Or we can choose to take on that challenge and strive to become something more than we thought possible. Many, perhaps all successful people choose this route. Because there was a time in their lives when they knew they were not good enough, and worked hard to become better.
The gap then can be the catalyst to find purpose and success in both art and in life.
So there is a hope, the desire to get better.
This will be the basis of my success and yours.
Back to Ira,
‘And the thing I would say to you is everybody goes through that. And for you to go through it, if you’re going through it right now, if you’re just getting out of that phase — you gotta know it’s totally normal.’
‘And the most important possible thing you can do is do a lot of work — do a huge volume of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week, or every month, you know you’re going to finish one story. Because it’s only by actually going through a volume of work that you are actually going to catch up and close that gap. And the work you’re making will be as good as your ambitions. It takes a while, it’s gonna take you a while — it’s normal to take a while. And you just have to fight your way through that, okay?’
Right again, as I have learned, to be good at something is to focus on the work. To take it seriously, learn your craft, and you will get better.
This desire will keep me striving, and working. Doing my best to narrow that gap between the writing I do now and the writing I will do in the future. Between who I am and who I want to be.
It means being comfortable that the gap is there.
Knowing that it’s presence is necessary, the source of the passion that drives you.
Whilst at the same time being uncomfortable that the gap is there.
Uncomfortable enough to do something about it, a commit to the work.
But most of all it is having the belief that you can become better.
If it were not for that gap, there would be no reason to strive and do anything. We would be satisfied with what we have, and nothing great ever came from accepting the things the way they are.
The gap then is necessary, it shows us the way to greatness or mediocrity. It is up to us to decide which.
So raise a glass to the gap.
Both the problem of, and solution to, an awesome life.