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Ira Glass on Taste and Persistence

Ira Glass has some important words to share with people starting work in the arts, be it literature or music. While we tend to glorify inspiration, Glass notes that it is perspiration, putting in those hours playing and making and failing, that will eventually allow you to make good art.

The video animation below is entertaining, or you can read the full quote at the bottom.

Ira Glass on Storytelling from David Shiyang Liu on Vimeo.

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

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Neurological Benefits of Practice

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After graduating college, I started work at a preschool in Minneapolis. My guitar had been gathering dust, but after a month of playing it in the classroom, I was amazed to see that my guitar and vocal technique was really improving. Even though I was just playing kid songs, the simple act of playing every single day was having powerful results. It certainly helped that five-year-olds are about the most forgiving audience one can hope to play for.

This article describes how one can dramatically reduce the amount of brainpower required for a given task through practice and “overlearning.”

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