Visualizing a quote: Ira Glass on the secret of success in creative work

The videos below are two different versions of visualizing a quote from an interview with American public radio personality and host of the podcast This American Life, Ira Glass. David Shiyang Liu created the kinetic type representation of the quote (top) about 6 years ago and it’s been viewed 1.5 million times since then. (Though to be fair, at least a hundred of those viewings are by me.) Daniel Sax was inspired by Liu’s video and decided to make his own version (bottom). It took about a year, with the help of a handful of other artists creating images.

The quote itself is inspiring, and it’s an important message for anyone who aspires to do creative work of any kind, I believe. As you watch the videos, you might think about how videos like these represent aspects of Henry Jenkins’ argument about media convergence, participatory culture, and collective intelligence.

Ira Glass on Storytelling

The Gap

Nobody tells people who are beginners — and I really wish somebody had told this to me — is that all of us who do creative work … we get into it because we have good taste. But it’s like there’s a gap, that for the first couple years that you’re making stuff, what you’re making isn’t so good, OK? It’s not that great. It’s really not that great. It’s trying to be good, it has ambition to be good, but it’s not quite that good. But your taste — the thing that got you into the game — your taste is still killer, and your taste is good enough that you can tell that what you’re making is kind of a disappointment to you, you know what I mean?

A lot of people never get past that phase. A lot of people at that point, they quit. And the thing I would just like say to you with all my heart is that most everybody I know who does interesting creative work, they went through a phase of years where they had really good taste and they could tell what they were making wasn’t as good as they wanted it to be — they knew it fell short, it didn’t have the special thing that we wanted it to have.

And the thing I would say to you is everybody goes through that. And for you to go through it, if you’re going through it right now, if you’re just getting out of that phase — you gotta know it’s totally normal.

And the most important possible thing you can do is do a lot of work — do a huge volume of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week, or every month, you know you’re going to finish one story. Because it’s only by actually going through a volume of work that you are actually going to catch up and close that gap. And the work you’re making will be as good as your ambitions. It takes a while, it’s gonna take you a while — it’s normal to take a while. And you just have to fight your way through that, okay?

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