What No One Tells You About Creative Work

The key to realizing your potential, as explained by Ira Glass.

“All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste…”

A few years out of film school, I hit a sort of creative rock bottom.

I had a couple of produced shorts and the strands of several screenplays to my name. The screenplay about which I was most excited received positive feedback from my peers, but I felt discouraged because above all else, they discussed its “potential”.

And I didn’t know how to push that potential further.

I’d done everything I could, but at the end of the day, I agreed: the draft wasn’t where it deserved to be. I’d reached a gap, as overwhelming as the Grand Canyon, between my ambition and my ability.

This was when a dear friend directed me to This American Life producer Ira Glass’ thoughts on “taste”. It was everything I needed to pick myself up and keep doing the work.

If you find yourself frustrated by “the gap”, take two minutes to watch Glass’ words visualized, by filmmaker Daniel Sax:

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.

So keep at it. Build a bridge across the gap one project at a time, until your taste and your work are one.

 Michael Koehler, with

For guidance in your journey from ambition to ability, check out our online filmmaking course – more guided than a blog, more interactive than a textbook, more flexible than traditional film school.


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