There has been a lot of buzz over ‘The Gap’ lately. The Creative Gap. Maybe you’ve seen it. I’ve seen hints of it roll through the social networks in the last couple of weeks, getting all inspiring on our feeds and walls and such, particularly tweaking the eager minds of young creative professionals and their wannabe counterparts.
But what is this ‘The Gap’… and no, I write not of the ubiquitously famous and identically named clothing retailer one might find peddling khakis in the mall? I write, more precisely of Ira Glass’ Creative Gap, detailing that mental, intangible, ineffable space between on the close end of (1) just knowing something is good and wanting to replicate it and on the far end of (2) knowing something is good and actually being able to match or better it in quality, both at will and on a regular basis. And usually, that ‘something’ refers to things artistic, literary, or otherwise born of personal expression and skill. The Gap is in the middle there; It’s the space between now and that undetermined point in the future.
I thought it appropriate — given that today is the fifth of the month and thus the three month anniversary of when I reloaded this blog and picked up my (nearly) daily writing again after that uncomfortable silence of last year — to write about creative inspiration, hard work, repetitive creative exercises, and persistently just-getting-it-done on the path to that far off perfection (or at least, idealized honing) of one’s personal style and ability. That is after all what this blog is for me: writing for the sake of writing, writing to get better at writing, writing to fill The Gap with words.
Ira Glass, a somewhat famous radio personality, author, et cetera explains it as this:
“What nobody tells people who are beginners — and I really wish someone had told this to me… is that 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, and 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 it\’s 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
It’s a neat idea, of course. And I wrote about something very similar a little more than two years ago. If you hunt back through my archives (or just click on this link for my post ‘Six Million Words’) you’ll find a quasi-review and some personal insight on a very similar idea to The Gap in the form of Malcolm Gladwell’s Ten Thousand Hour Rule. In that idea lives the theory that in order to achieve greatness at anything — no matter what that anything happens to be — there is a temporal space between now and that point of greatness: 10,000 hours of effort. Again, a gap to be filled with practice, work, honing, review, critique, successes, failures, tweaks, risks, and a million small moments that will never, ever, no-matter-what be recognized by anyone for anything of value — but moments that fill that gap. The Gap. The Creative Gap.
The GreyscaleGorilla has a lengthy but insightful video of his presentation on not only the idea of The Gap, but strategies that he has found, adapted, developed, and honed to fill The Creative Gap with the fodder of those millions of small, dead moments. The video is focused on design and animation — his area of interest — but worth watching (or listening to in the background while you work) no matter your own personal gap.
And all of this — the Gap, the 10,000 Hour Rule, the creative exercises, the pain, the work and everything — gets me back to this blog. Not you. Me. Why? Because these are my moments: literally and not-so-much literally. These are the written moments of my life, but they are also my small meaningless moments of effort meant to fill my own creative gap between where I know I am and where I think I can be. Again: writing for the sake of writing, writing to get better at writing, writing to fill The Gap with words. Sure, there are benefits of story and personal history and potentially a random collection of texts for my descendents to read and understand this vague yet wordy ancestor from the turn of the millennium poking away on his petroleum-based plastic keyboard, words projecting into his eyes via little antique panels of glass, crystals and radiating light. Sure, there’s that. But for me. Now. And for that point in my future, this blog — my photos, my poking at design and digital comics, my sketching, my video editing, and my scattered attempts at writing fiction — all of it is gap-fodder. Both risks and benefits: understood.