“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 the ambition to be good, but it’s not that good.”
- Ira Glass on “This American Life”
Why do we become artists? What makes artists believe that they have the ability to be successful? It’s because we have a style, a vision, a passion to create. As soon as a pen or a camera is in hand, we want to bring our ideas to life.
But what separates a successful artist from someone with a great idea? Ira Glass would call it The Gap.
The Gap is the mental space between having a vision for something awesome, but not having the experience and technical skills to make that vision a reality.
The day I got my camera, I had a million ideas and ran wild. I shot videos with my friends, uploaded the footage to my computer and realized something. Everything that I captured was inadequate. In my head, I was making magic. But it turned out to be shaky, overexposed, nonsensical work that I was ultimately disappointed in.
I didn’t pick up my camera for months. The thought of shooting intimidated me because I was ashamed of my lack of talent.
Every artist goes through this rut. Recognizing beauty is much easier than creating it. It ultimately hinders a lot of people from the creative industry. How do you overcome this obstacle if every project you do in the beginning of your career doesn’t compare to your dreams?
You have to close the gap by embracing the creative process. The only way to improve your work is by practicing – a lot.
In Ira Glass’s words “Do a huge volume of work (…). 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.”
Had I used those months to become more technically savvy, I would be a better artist. Rather, I left my camera dormant and by the time I picked it up again, I was at the same skill level and ran into the same issues.
We must remember that we take away something new from every experience. If I need 100 takes to make the shot perfect, I realized why it took that long at the end, not the beginning. The process is frustrating but by the 100th take, I’m not thinking about how hard it was, rather how happy I am that I crossed the finish line.
Be meticulous. When I work on a project, I write down exactly what I did that day. I reflect on the thought process, questions left unanswered, and my takeaways. If an artist runs into a problem once, they’re likely to face it again. It’s important to recognize the dilemma so it can be easily solved the next time.
There are a million different possibilities that artists face when working on a project. Every experience they’ve had will contribute to the style and decisions they make. This proves how understanding and continuously repeating the motions is fundamental for improvement. The more information I digest on a daily basis, the closer I am to seeing better results.
After enough practice, any artist’s vision will become more aligned with the work they produce. Their taste will expand and they’ll have the ability to become unique. While it may come naturally to some, all artists have room to grow and change.
I’ve embraced the process and I’m working hard to find the next step in my creative journey. With my ambition to be good, I will get there. I will close the gap.
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