Creality, Revisited

What separates success from disappointment (not failure, which is not as bad as being disappointed in yourself) is the ability to be OK with “not yet.” The sense of being an experimenter comes out as the strength to be satisfied with your creative output while knowing, at the same time, that you will do another round, and it will be different, and maybe even better.

Caption at the metro station in Victoria Station, London.

Caption at the metro station in Victoria Station, London.

I’ve covered creality several times, but this is the step after creality hits. (Creality is the term that T.J. Goerlitz introduced me to. It’s the gap between what is in your head and what you produce. )

This quote by Ira Glass  (host of This American Life) jumped out at me today, and it was perfect for my state of mind. Maybe yours, too.

“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

-Quinn McDonald is a writer and art journaler. She’s still fighting.

13 thoughts on “Creality, Revisited

  1. I want you know how much your daily emails and your sharing so many ideas and topics with us, and of course, your books, mean to me…
    Ira’s quote from you today, is now pasted on front page and back of my current writing journal, hung on my wall, and I have extra copies printed to paste in future journals. I will go back and forth forever on how to more honestly merge my whirlwind, squirrelly, lengthy writing into meaningful art on my journaling pages, yet not copy someone else’s way … I am slowly discovering patience and my own meandering way from morning pages to a word art page of meaning a day. Your first book, Raw Art Journaling, and your daily emails are monumental springboards of encouragement and inspiration. I will be getting your second book as soon as I finish the first. (But each of your exercises spark so many ideas, I may never finish your first book!)
    Reading your daily emails for this past year has been a wondrous journey of enthusiasm and encouragement to try a lot of things…Thanks Quinn, for your courage to create and your courage to share your world of creation with the rest of us. Kay

  2. Wow, Quinn, this was an eye opener. I’ve struggled with this “gap” my whole life. I always thought it was my left brain getting in the way. It took me years to decide I could do something “artsy” and I still go through periods of withdrawal because “I’m not good enough”. Knowing that perseverance is the key to closing The Gap will help me
    “hang in”.

    • A long time ago, I learned an artist’s prayer. I think it was even Julia Cameron who said it–“Lord help me do the quantity and the quality will take care of itself.” The more we practice, the better we get.

  3. Oh, I so needed to read this! I’m taking an art sabbatical next week (here at home) to work on my artwork for a specified number of hours each day. I keep struggling with, “We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have.” I have to remember to keep pushing through and keep doing the work. It will eventually all come together.

  4. OMG YES!!!!!!
    When you explain to someone that you’re not good enough yet to create what you see in your mind’s eye, they often think you’re fishing for compliments, having a bout of false modesty, or being disingenuous.

    It’s best just to struggle through to mastery. Like you, Quinn, I’m still struggling, with a breakthrough here or there, just to keep the carrot dangling.

  5. This is why it’s so difficult for adults to begin learning a musical instrument … kids are thrilled with what they produce but adults apply a filter of critical listening to their squawks and squeaks.

  6. I struggle with the gap every single day…but I really do believe it’s getting a tiny little bit smaller every day too. I wish someone had told me sooner that perseverance was the key, but luckily for me I’m just super stubborn. I enjoy the process much more than the results, with just enough success to keep me motivated. And we all get lots of motivation here too Quinn.

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