Isn’t it funny how we can hear something for years—we nod our heads and agree—“Yes, yes, I understand.” Then one day, someone says the same thing using different words, and suddenly “I see! I know! I understand what that means!” It’s like the light comes on and we see clearly.
That happened to me yesterday. I was listening to a clip on YouTube by Ira Glass as he talked about the importance of storytelling. He was directing his talk toward visual storytelling, but suddenly I saw it as it applied to writing. He said that our problem is that we have good taste. We’ve seen TV or movies—or read good books and stories—and we know what we love and what we create at first doesn’t match what we know and love, doesn’t match what we have seen and were aiming for. There is a gap between our creation and our ideal. And this is where so many people quit, thinking that they just can’t do it, they’re not good enough, etc. Yet he says this is the place for us to keep trying—because WE HAVE THE GOOD TASTE—we KNOW what we are aiming for. So just keep trying and each effort will get closer to our ideal. It may take years, but we will still continue to get better if we keep trying.
I think the reason so many of us quit is because we think “I didn’t make it to my ideal so that means that I don’t know how to get there and I’m no good.” But in reality, we DO know how to get there—if we have the ideal in our heads and hearts, then we know what we are aiming for. And every time we create something that doesn’t make it, we still know where we were headed and where we fell short—so if we keep going, we can make our corrections and see how the next attempt turns out.
For some reason that just brought everything into focus for me. It made me realize that I DO know how to write—I know how I want to write, and if I write and revise and write some more and revise some more, eventually I will be able to make/write/create the kind of writing that I hold as my ideal. So keep writing.
This isn’t some overinflated ego thing of “I can be just as good as so-and-so,” it is an affirmation that my intelligence or conviction or standard is valid even when my execution is deficient, that I do know what I am doing, that my writing has worth . So, I can happily keep writing and fixing and quit worrying that my writing is no good—because I have good taste, I know what good writing is, and I am on my way to achieving it.
Anyhoo—my friend Sherita will say, “Haven’t I been telling you this for years? And you only believe it when you read it somewhere else?” Yes, guilty as charged. Except that finally understanding that seeing the gap between the ideal and my creation equals “yes, you can do it.” That if I didn’t see the gap, then there would be no hope for my getting better. That “seeing the gap” is actually the important part of the equation! And that makes all the difference. That means I can trust the gap to lead to better things instead of seeing it as a deterrent. The gap shows me where to go. So trust the gap and keep writing.
Go to You Tube and watch the four clips by Ira Glass on Storytelling. If my link doesn't work, look him up. He explains all this so much clearer and better than my rambling does. And maybe some sentence that he says will illuminate an idea for you. He does know how to tell a story!