Learning to Acknowledge the Gap

There exists a gap between where you are and where you want to be and that gap, I believe, is a good thing to have as it pushes you to do what needs to be done to get there, to make mistakes, fail, try harder, make better choices and grow.

Whenever we first start at something it is not the true representation of what our work could look like years down that road but we take that ‘beginner work’ as the scale to measure our abilities and sometimes; our self worth with. I believe that’s a mistake that makes us keep small and don’t make any waves which eventually shows up as us being too afraid to take up some space; online or offline.

Almost a year ago, I was not aware of the gap or rather it is more accurate to say, I never thought about it this way. I felt frustrated as I was seeing a gap between my creative work was and where I expected it to be. Then I came across this quote by Ira Grass.

“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.”

Just about yesterday, as I was feeling thrilled to start Day 1 of my 100 day project but I started feeling a lot more frustrated. The first piece that I started didn’t quite turn out well from the very beginning and it was making me wonder if I had made a mistake by taking up 100 days of unapologetic painting. Instead of feeling like a failure and giving up on the first day, I took myself out for some fresh air and reminded me of the few following things.

– I was expecting a lot of myself on the first day.

– Why am I doing it in the first place? Because I love creating art.

– The reason why I am choosing to do this project isn’t so that I can become the expert version but to cultivate a habit of creating something every day.

– I have got to be okay for my work to suck if especially in the beginning if I want it to get better someday.

– It is okay to try and fail rather than not trying at all.

– What’s the worst that can happen?

– There is no finish line, it is only in my head and I can bend it, stretch it however and whatever way I like.

With experience I am learning, the best way to snap out of a creative rut like this one is to make yourself busy in what Austin Kleon calls productive procrastination in Steal Like an Artist. That’s exactly what I did yesterday, went out for a walk, soaked in the sun for a little while and once I got back home I had so many different ideas of what to work on and I am feeling quite proud to share the result of Day 1 as this was my first time ever of trying to paint with Acrylics and it turned out way better than I expected it to be.

The point is, I am slowly learning to acknowledge that gap between where I am now at and where I want to see myself and my work at and I am realizing that it is rather a good thing. It reminds me of giving myself permission to be being a beginner.

Do you see yourself recognizing and acknowledging that gap too? I’d love to read your experiences in the comments below.

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  • I’ve seen that quote awhile back on Instagram and really loved it.. it’s stayed with me all these months and it’s reassuring too that all you really need in the beginning is for that vision in your mind to be stellar. Then through effort the physical work you do eventually matches that image. It’s such a great way of looking at creativity and getting past imperfections to realize it’s ultimately the work that makes us better in the end.

  • I remember that quote vividly as the first thing that put into words the fear and also the permission of starting out creatively. I find especially as adults we struggle with this gap! Children don’t have the same issues with this. I’m excited to see where else your 100 day project is going to take you!

    • Totally! This reminds me of another quote by Pablo Picasso, ‘Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.’ which I think is totally on point here.