spotlight: ira glass on creativity

“You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”

“What nobody tells people who are beginners — and I really wish someone  had told this to me . . . is that 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, and 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 it’s 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 a while. It’s normal to take a while. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”

I have such the greatest love for this quote! This first reason is that it’s from Mr. Ira Glass, host of Public Radio International’s This American Life. I am a public radio junkie. Like for real. Like to the point that I don’t listen to anything else when I’m in the car. Partly because mainstream music works my nerves at this point and time, and partly because what’s usually on public radio is much more interesting than what’s on the music stations. This American Life is an hour-long show featuring radio essays and short stories, of which Glass is the host. He has the most inquisitive voice and is a magnificent storyteller, which draws me in to listen whenever I catch the show. In this quote, he was originally speaking about storytelling and producing writing pieces (as he is first and foremost a journalist), but I find that the basis of this speaks to anyone who does creative work, so the context lends itself to most any type of art form, especially choreography.

Reason two is that, when I first read this quote, it resonated with me because I felt like it encompassed the exact place that I am right now in my choreographic journey. If all this takes years, I’m about in Year 7. Though I create a lot that I’m happy with, there’s even more that I’m not, probably about a 1:4 ratio. I will be honest though, that’s a bit of a change from my first pieces, when it was more like .1 out of 14! My mind creates the look and feel of the piece, but I sometimes have such trouble translating that into the movement. Being unable to effectively translate the mental image(s) into the physical one can be quite unsettling as it fosters self-rejection of our creativity, which so many of us in this line of work already hear enough as it is. Despite that, some of the pieces that I’m not the most profoundly satisfied with are out the in the public image and, in time, I’ll mention them here along with my process in choreographing it and my feelings about the end result.

I will say that every time my perfectionist tendencies get in the way of me feeling accomplished at finishing a dance piece, I return to this quote. It gives me hope that the piece I finished, perfect or not, is one piece closer to closing the gap. One piece closer to bridging my killer taste and even more killer skill. *smile* One piece closer to actually feeling like the artist I profess to be.

On the other hand, I hope that gap never really closes. A life of pushing myself to move and dream and create couldn’t be so bad, right?

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