A few weeks ago, I read a quote about writers with good taste and how that taste is often miles ahead of their abilities at the beginning. It is due to this taste that writers with some promise may give up before they even get their careers started. The quote is from Ira Glass, famous for being the host of "This American Life." This is something that should be shared far and wide to writers who are just starting out.
"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."
- Ira Glass
If you're considering quitting your writing career after just a few years, I think that this quote is the proof that you should give it another go. I never really thought of good taste as being one of the reasons I got into writing in the first place, but it's completely true. I loved reading more than the other kids my age growing up and even in college I had my face pressed in the great works more than my hall mates. In addition, I couldn't get enough of well-written television like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Cheers and later on, Six Feet Under and Friday Night Lights. I had some fun here and there watching crappy sitcoms and whatnot, but it was always about the classics for me. I even once tried to watch all 100 top American Film Institute movies and reached 88 before they completely revamped the list. There's something about amazing writing, acting and directing that has always turned me on. I suppose it had something to do with my good taste.
I agree with Glass on his other points as well. The first things that I wrote during and after college had a long way to go. Even on this website, my later work is vastly superior in a lot of ways to my early stuff. I can look back on it and laugh, but some people producing work of that quality would look at it using their good taste and shiver. They might think that they aren't meant for writing and should give up. You need to keep the gap in mind between your good taste and your skill level. Your skills will continue to improve as you work on them, but if you give up completely, they'll wither away and die.
Eventually, if you keep on working, your talent will catch up with your taste. I know that I'm not quite there yet myself, but I'm happy to keep trying and to see where I end up after my skills catch up. Considering how good my taste is (wink, wink) it's bound to be something special.
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