“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
This is a quote I share often with students, and budding creatives. And it’s one I want to expound upon a little more in depth. As when I often get asked, “how do you get big brands wanting to work with you” or “how can I make art and make a living doing it?” or “what is the best advice you can give me about pursuing a career in the arts?” I think so often of this quote. All of those are very valid questions…but ones that are hard to answer quite simply. This is one of the reasons I started my blog, I see it as a guide of inspiration that includes the tools and mantras I live by. Not just as an artist, but as a human. And one of the things I always answer to those questions is , “Well I got to work-I made a lot of crappy work in hopes that every once in a while-I could make something good. And then maybe once in a blue moon-something great! I painted 5 days a week if not more. I researched, I read , I absorbed the world around me as much as I could and tried to be as authentic to what I was feeling every time I sat down to paint. I painted when I was happy, I painted when I was sad, I painted when I felt angry or hopeless. I painted when I felt inspired by anything. I paint what I aspire to be hired for. I want to be so good, that my work cannot be ignored. I have faith that the work I do-although seems small on a daily basis and sometimes inconsequential is all heading me in the direction I want to be going. And it is allowing for growth, and for my work to evolve.”
I’ve decided to share side by side examples of the work I have done over the years below. To help you see why doing the work is important. I love looking back and seeing that I have improved. But I also try not to crap allover my past work. I had to DO it. I would not be where I am today, without all the work. Good or bad. It got me here and will continue to guide me.
I think it’s important to remember to focus on progress over perfection when it comes to your creative work. Many things I painted at the time, I felt happy with the progress I was gaining..even if I knew it wasn’t up to the highest of standards. I knew I could always choose to be overtly critical, or I could choose to speak kindly to myself and say, “you did good today kid-you’re trying. And a few years ago you didn’t even have the courage to do just that.” The more work I did, the more I learned and could see clear improvement. It’s just like working out…if you lift weights every day you won’t see results immediately that day-but you will feel them and then with time you will physically see results that will allow you to feel confident which will only propel you to keep moving forward.
So I hope you’ll enjoy the process. I hope you’ll speak kind to yourself. I hope you’ll know that expecting perfection isn’t the goal here. And that constantly comparing your work to others, is detrimental to your own success. So go make lots of work! Do what you love, and I promise you will get there if you stay dedicated and get back up and get going! Also printing out that Ira Glass quote and putting in your work space…is highly recommended ;)