My first “real job” could’ve been done by a monkey…
It was tedious work that included filling out insurance paperwork all day long.
I was the dictionary definition for “paper pusher” and I hated it.
The work itself was so mind-numbingly boring I had to do something to keep myself from going insane…
So I filled my day with various podcasts, one of which was This American Life.
Today’s post is inspired by a quote from This American Life’s Ira Glass. Here’s the quote.
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?
When it comes to writing copy - and many other things in life - I think one of the things that separates people who get better and people who quit is the ability to “push through the suck.”
With pretty much anything you do, whether it’s starting a business, programming video games, cooking, or trying to stop smoking, the people who succeed are just those that were able to get over the “holy crap this is bad” phase.
When it comes to breaking bad habits, sometimes this is called the “three day hump” or something similar, but the point stands…
… if you want to get good at something, you have to suck first.
You have to fail a lot and keep going.
Sure, getting better also requires you to learn the fundamentals, learn from the masters, and put in your repetitions...
… but you can’t do any of that until you push through the suck.
So, if you’re trying to learn a new skill or achieve a goal, don’t get discouraged if you suck. That’s just the first step of getting better