On being not so good

Early start of the day on a weekend is exciting, and one without many hard commitments — even more so. The day can be filled in whatever way I like. Uninterrupted 12 hours of awesomeness. To ease into the day I have two choices: read and write (consume or create).

Reading is always a default option. Especially high-speed skim reading without working the material through, not giving myself a chance to properly digest and reflect. It’s a relatively passive pastime which doesn’t cause overthinking (which is abundant at any given point in the day otherwise). Admittedly, it’s a bit of an addiction of sorts, and definitely my absolute favourite method of procrastination.

Writing on the other hand, is active work. It feels onerous not because it’s hard in itself — after all typing is what I do all day every day at work as well. It feel onerous because it causes thinking, a lot of which is fearful and unpleasant. Most of it is along the lines of “it will be ages before this is any good”… But how does one get to being good without getting through the not so good part first?

“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

I have given myself permission to be not so good, for now. To take the pressure off. Just write and write and write. For a while. When I forget about this self-administered “permission slip”, I “forget” to write. There are always so many reasons not to. But there are even more to do it, especially when perfection is explicitly not one of them. Even typing this feels light and joyful.