The Art of Cultivating Taste

“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, This American life about Storytelling

I can’t remember when I stumbled upon Ira Glass’ concept of cultivating taste, but it has stuck with me ever since. I was going through writer’s block and felt so seen and heard reading his words. As a perfectionist, it is very defeating to sit down and produce “shitty” and unsatisfactory work where the feelings you want to explain are not piecing together the way you want them to. Some days are better than others, where the words can flow out of me naturally, and some days I am left staring at a blank page until I feel defeated enough that I no longer want to write anymore. But, on the days when everything works in your favour and you feel proud of what you have written is the best feeling in the world to me. Whenever I feel down and doubt my writing abilities or feel like I have created the best work and peaked as a writer, I return to this video and feel reassured. Whenever I feel a sense of imposter syndrome or a writing slump, his words comfort me like a blanket in the death of winter.





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