Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Writing Wisdom from Ira Glass

I found this quote by Ira Glass on Billy Mernit's terrific blog-- Living the Romantic Comedy. Ira Glass, is of course, a writer as well as a public radio personality, and host and producer of the radio and television show This American Life.

The quote really resonated with me, and I thought other writers and creative types would enjoy it as well. Here it is, in different form:

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 if 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 fashion 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.

I couldn't have said it any better!




Karen Wojcik Berner said...


Karen McQuestion said...

Another writer named Karen agrees!

D. L. Marriott said...

Funny, I saw that quote not too long ago and shared it with my fellow writer classmates in Gail's class. I couldn't agree more!

Sean McCartney said...


Wow that was a great find. "You gotta fight through" Amen is right. Somedays, however, the fight is all you have. :)


Karen McQuestion said...

Dody, that is a coincidence! I guess we both have great minds.

Sean, I couldn't agree more.

Brenda ND said...

Oh, what excellent wisdom. Just what I needed to read this morning. Thanks.

Jon Olson said...

That's cool. Thanks for sharing that, Karen.

Jon O.
The Petoskey Stone
The Ride Home

Karen McQuestion said...

My timing was good, Brenda! Thanks for leaving a comment.

Hey Jon O.--you are very welcome, as always.

Bill B said...

Ira has it nailed! I have that one taped up on my desk along with the Holstee Manifesto.
Hey, you've gotta put in your 10,000 hours in order to master your skill, whatever that may be (reference to Outliers) ...

Karen McQuestion said...

Hi Bill! I've heard that about the 10,000 hours too. I think I've put in that amount of time and I'm still learning. Maybe I'm a little slow on the uptake?

I loved that you shared the Holstee Manifesto--thank you! This is the first I've heard of it. It's definitely worthy of printing and displaying somewhere in my office.

KarenAK said...

Hi Karen, I'm writing from our winter home in Tucson Arizona. I received a Kindle for Christmas (my request)and I'm still in process of learning how to use it. I was on the website and came across your name and your books. I'm delighted to see you have written and published more books and continue to do so. I can truly say "I knew her back when we had a writer's group at the Community Center...where we had to compete with the sounds of a Karate class in the other room." Congratulations to you! I love the Ira Glass quotation by the way, so true. Karen K

Karen McQuestion said...

Hi Karen,
What a fun surprise to hear from someone who knows me and my writing from the early days. I'd almost forgotten about the karate classes in the Community Center! Yes, that was a bit distracting. :)

Thanks for your congratulations! Things turned out well for me and I'm feeling very lucky.