I’m working on a story right now that I want so badly to be good and sound and beautiful. But it’s ambitious and honestly, I feel as if I’m trying to find my way to the bed in a dark hotel room. I keep bumping into things and I can’t seem to get my bearings–in short, I have no idea what.I’m.doing.
And so (of course) I started searching around the internet for some help and/or inspiration.
What I found was a video featuring Ira Glass, in which Glass talks about what he really wishes someone had told him when he was beginner. It was exactly what I needed to hear and so wonderfully consoling that I felt compelled to share it. Thus, see below.
I’ll admit I’ve got a bit of a brain-crush on Ira Glass. He has, undoubtedly, a remarkable ability to tell stories. I’m an avid listener of This American Life. I play episodes while I work out, walk to class, fall asleep, and each time I’m amazed by how captivating it is, by how fascinated and engrossed I become in the story.
In this Ira-Glass-fawning-vein, Glass also gave a terrific commencement speech at Goucher College last May, chalk-full of humorous, hopeful bits of wisdom and insight. You can watch the full speech here (though I’ll warn you about the unreal peculiarity of seeing the face attached the voice), but below is just one quote that stuck out to me.
“I had to learn that ideas, if you were going to make creative work, you have to find an idea to make the work about. That is a job in itself. And where do ideas come from? They come from other ideas, and you have to surround yourself with things that are interesting to you and notice what is exciting to you and what you want to dive into, and finding what you’re going to make your short story or film or song or art project or movie about is a job. Finding what you want to do next is a job. It’s a task: You have to set aside hours in the day, and you have to be a soldier, and you have to fight for what you’re going to make in yourself.”
So often I think ideas will simply arrive in my mind, as if the idea fairy is just going to leave an idea under my pillow at night. But Glass argues, No, it’s not as romantic as that; we have to work to form our ideas. That creativity isn’t this natural, flowing entity but something we must nurture daily. Something that requires earnest endeavor; concerted effort.
And I like that thought–I like it a whole lot–because it rings true to me and because it makes my struggling seem useful, worthwhile; heck, maybe even valuable.