In Life on
June 19, 2017

mind your gap

Anybody in a creative-leaning field has seen it:

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)

Have you looked at your gap?

I hate my gap. My gap is always there, thanks to my anxiety, taunting me, reminding me that what I’m doing is often not up to my own standards or expectations. My gap has been a source of inspiration and frustration – what’s worse than sitting down to paint knowing that this is probably not going to come out the way you want?

It has, I hate to admit, kept me from writing more than often. Why write it if I’ll hate it? Why write it if I’ll rip it apart tomorrow revising? Why write it if it’s just going to be a stepping stone?

Because without the stepping stones, you don’t make the journey. You can’t jump. I needed a really big wake up call this week because I was complaining about my gap. How I wanted more ambitious work, how I wanted the world, and felt like I wasn’t getting it. Why?

My gap.

I wasn’t working for it. And that’s not to say that my inner cynic is right – the gap is not supposed to be this thing keeping you from creating. In fact, I’m learning to let my gap inspire me. Recently, I dumped all of my paintings, watercolors, everything, out onto the floor of my studio apartment. I sifted through it. And, to be honest…I was not as bad as I thought I was at this. Nowhere near where I want to be. But in the way I use painting, as a hobby, as an emotional outlet, this was all I needed. To be surrounded by my weird patterns, my bright colors, my white space (white space is delicious, just ask Matisse if you don’t believe me) was what I needed.

My gap is going to be there with me every day. And maybe I won’t close it for decades. Maybe I never will. But at least I’m getting up every day and making something. I like working with my hands the same way I like working with a pencil or a pen. It just makes sense. This is all I need to work through my gap.

Writing, creating, doing has always come to me as naturally as breathing. This is just how I live. I have to. I can’t not. My anxiety often challenges that, and I get those fun voices that say things like:

“Why bother?”

“What’s the point?”

“It won’t be what you want it to be.”

Battling back those voices is half the struggle – the other is paying attention, real attention, to what I love, where I am, and where I want to be. I’m learning to embrace that part of my gap.

What’s your gap? Where are you coming up short? Are you like me, expecting that someone is going to come along and hand you more challenges? Or are you going to go out and look for them?

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