The Gap: animation of Ira Glass's inspirational rant about overcoming fear of creative suckage


Somewhat ironic that the people who can have the easiest time continuing to create actually lack the taste to know how bad they are and consequently don’t actually get any better. I wish the idea would die, that doing a lot of something (10,000 hours or a million words or whatever) lets you get better. It doesn’t. It’s dispassionate criticism of what you’ve done that guides your improvement. If you do nothing but make shoddy dovetail joints for ten years and never ask why your furniture keeps falling apart, you’re not going to get better.

And you can trust me on this. I have written ten million words of crap in random thread comments, so I know what I’m talking about.

Oh, I should add, I actually love that video and would marry Ira Glass, but his crazy dog, and wife, rule that out.


The comedian Tommy Cooper apparently had very little idea why people found him so funny. He couldn’t pin down what it was that would make people laugh, so he used to try ideas out and polish them based on audience feed back. It must be a very stressful experience, like surfing a wave of blazing tigers.

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I was going to write a witty, insightful comment about this video, but I realized that I could never be as profound as I would hope to be.


For me after passing this phase, the creation of art has gotten even more difficult. There is not quite the same joy of discovery and newness. Trying to improve my work at this point or at least keep it at the same level has been stressful and has caused many days/months of painters block. Keeping up with external expectations as well as internal. It is hard to describe…

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Respectfully, I think it’s just as bad to completely rule it out (as much as it is to say it’s the only way).
I think the point many people miss about the 10,000 hour rule is that it’s not just the time you put in, but the considerable amount of time spent trying to improve on one’s past efforts.

==thinking about paraphrasing the quote about doing the exact same thing over and over==

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The deadly combo, then, is good taste and an inability to stay focused on one topic. You just wind up frustrated and jumping from thing to thing you’d like to do. Pretty sure I’m in that camp.

Although sometimes it seems your tastes are so much better than everyone else’s that what is crap to you is passable to everyone else, and you can get by. I think that’s called school for many people.

I just started the rpm challenge ( and man, I needed to hear this today.

I’ll just keep on trying!

How is this a rant? It’s a passionate call for new creatives to not give up.

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My question is: When you’re still in the gap, what do you do with all that not-very-good stuff that you’re making? If you know your art is a failure, you’re not going to want to share it (this is particularly true of writing, where you’re asking the reader to invest a lot of time and focus)…but it’s also not very rewarding if all you do when you finish a project is save it to your hard drive and move on to the next thing.

Where is the reward system that motivates you to keep creating while your work is still sub-par? Or is it just 10,000 hours of delayed gratification?

This may be sort of a “definition #3” on the word, but a passionate speech does fall under the umbrella of ‘rant’. Angry passion is the norm, but not exactly a prerequisite.

Traditionally, artists simply destroy the old stuff that’s not cutting it. Some painters used to scrape/sand down the canvas, and paint a new painting over it. Others would shred it, while others would burn it with fire – something that I figure happened to a few drafts of possible novels, too.
This reminds me of one of my early paintings that my dad got a hold of during a house move that I wasn’t present for. As much as I beg for its return, he won’t give it up. It’s rather bad, and it’s going to be destroyed before he’s even cold in the ground.

The theory being: Never let people see your worst work. Let it be water under the bridge.

As for the motivation, my assumption is that it’s mainly a dissatisfaction with the gap - understanding that improvement is it’s own reward.
My mentor used to tell me that painting will always be a learning process. There is no finish line.

As a writer, me and my girlfriend has a blog to publish all of our short stories. We’re pushing ourselves to write and it’s not important if it’s good or bad, we’re just putting all of the stories there. This also let us see what we’ve done so far and it motivates us.

I think you are making the mistake of focusing your attention on the 90 percent of everything that is shit. Focus on what you love, on what does work.

I will try to do the same.

well, what about not-so-new creatives? cause me, i go through that every fucking day of my life. nothing is ever good enough… good enough for a minute maybe, good enough with the right outside validation… for a minute, if i’m lucky, for a day. and then it all starts over again. drove me into performance, oh the instant gratification… good for a little while, until i go home, go to sleep, get up the next day to do battle once again.

maybe that’s what art is all about… that battle. because there are no easy solutions or perhaps there are no easy problems either. too often i have seen people produce copious blather cause if the blather is not rigorously torn into, it’s still just the noise of a deaf blatherer.

Save it for when you get rich and famous. Then you can get even more rich by selling it to an archive.

(a) it’s more like 99.9%

(b) You are literally telling me to focus on the good stuff, when the whole point of the video is that you can’t avoid the bad stuff until your ability catches up with your taste. My only point about the 10000 hour “rule” is that it’s functionally meaningless. Doing 10000 hours of something that is judged will make you get better, but just doing it is no guarantee.

I dunno. I feel you were answering a point that neither I nor the video made.

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As an eternal, internal editor… “My girlfriend and I have a blog to publish our short stories. We’re pushing ourselves to write but it’s unimportant whether it’s good or bad, we’re just putting all of the stories on there so we can see what we’ve done so far. That alone is enough to motivate us.”

If I ever start posting in Turkish you’re welcome to point out my mistakes - because we only really learn by knowing what we did wrong.

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Exactly. Thanks for pointing them out :smile: