Ira Glass, a bridgeable gap and writing crap

There is a certain kind of joy in being part of the social media age because, among the rank garbage and fluffy kitten videos, you occasionally stumble on something worthwhile that plants a seed or reinforces an idea you have. Or maybe it simply represents a truth that gets lost down the ‘back of the sofa’ of your mind.

So it is with this short video from Ira Glass, the host and producer of radio programme This American Life (which you can listen to on Radio 4 extra I believe, or if not in podcast format – go find it yourselves, you’re clever people). I stumbled on this recently and thought it good enough to share.

It’s a simple argument. When you start writing there’s a gap between your taste (the level of writing you want to be at) and where you actually are (probably somewhere betwixt utter arse gravy and amateurish). And that gap takes a long, long time to narrow. Years in fact. Because of that, many people give up.

But those who don’t, those who go on creating and produce a volume of work, will eventually narrow the gap. Spoiler alert – that ‘volume of work’ will contain many, many pages of dreadful prose whose only function will as excrement used to fertilise better work.

In some ways this applies to pretty much everything. When we learn an instrument, when we take up a new sport, when we try to speak a new language, when we find a new friend or partner, maybe even parenting. The only way to close the gap between where you want to be and where you are is through active learning, patience, trial and error. Lots and lots of error.

And that’s about it. Nothing revolutionary, nothing that most of us don’t know already. But useful, for me to hear, and maybe others too.