The Gap Between Good Taste and Doing Good Work

I saw this on Kottke the other day and thought about how relevant it is for musicians. It’s from Ira Glass about closing the gap between having good taste and being able to do good work. So many beginners feel this gap and they need to know it is normal and part of the process. The only thing I would add is that the gap can increase as well. When I started studying more music history, musicianship, and theory the gap increased because my taste got more refined. But that was a good thing for me. Also, you have to enjoy the work, do it forever but enjoy closing the gap. It’s a lifelong journey and will never fully end so if you don’t learn to enjoy the process it can become negative. So rejoice every time you close that gap even just the smallest amount. It’s a super win. Here’s a partial transcript (via James Clear):

Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, and I really wish somebody had told this to me.

All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But it’s like there is this gap. For the first couple years that you’re making stuff, what you’re making isn’t so good. It’s not that great. It’s trying to be good, it has ambition to be good, but it’s not that good.

But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is good enough that you can tell that what you’re making is kind of a disappointment to you. A lot of people never get past that phase. They quit.

Everybody I know who does interesting, creative work they went through years where they had really good taste and they could tell that what they were making wasn’t as good as they wanted it to be. They knew it fell short. Everybody goes through that.

And if you are just starting out or if 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. 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. It is only by going through a volume of work that you’re going to catch up and close that gap. And the work you’re making will be as good as your ambitions.

The full interview from which the video above is excerpted can be found here

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  1. Bradford,
    Your post reminds me of a quote by Bill Evans,
    “Most people just don’t realize the immensity of the problem and either, because they can’t conquer it immediately, think they don’t have the ability; or they’re so impatient to conquer it that they never do see it through.”