The Taste / Experience conundrum

This lovely Ira Glass quote has been floating around the Internet of late.

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.

But the key thing comes after, so do watch the first five minutes or so of the source of the quote.

It’s that bit about it being perfectly normal and the only thing you can do is produce a huge volume of work. He then goes on to tear apart a recording of himself 8 years into his career, the point being, I guess, that he was a “professional” at that stage even though he sucked by his high standards.

It reminds me of something a cartoonist (I think it was Dave Sim) said as advice to aspiring cartoonists. Get a stack of paper as high as you. Draw on every single piece of paper. When you have a stack of drawings as high as you you’re ready to be a cartoonist.

I’m also reminded of Nikki Pugh responding to someone asking when artists know whether they’ve done a good piece of work. Or something. (Thanks to Twitter’s short-term memory I can’t search for the exact phrase.) Her answer (as before, I’m paraphrasing from memory) was that for her the thing to concentrate on is her practice as an artist, to see the work in the context of her work. I’d guess to do otherwise would lead to madness because she’d never able to honestly judge her own work to be good.

Which is a long way of saying I’m trying not to be worried about my work in the library being below par. I accept that I won’t be happy with it, that I’ll see room for improvement, cliches and traps I’ve slipped into and so on. But the only way I can move beyond that is to do it, learn and move on to the next one.

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