I love this video of Ira Glass, host of This American Life, talking about how your best work comes from doing your craft over and over.  20% will be great work and 80% will be crap.  The 20% will make the rest of it worth it. While this video is part of a four-part series, I found this segment to be the most interesting:



I particularly like the part on being ruthless to get rid of a lot of material.  I think this is where the saying, "Murder your darlings" comes from.  Lately, I've been writing a lot, but only a small portion gets published on this blog or my other blogs.  I'm exercising my writing muscles, after letting them atrophy over the last year.  It reminds me of a wonderful book, Do the Work by Steven Pressfield, that is all about conquering resistance and the need to be perfect.

I also like Glass's point about making your work equal to the level of your taste. In the early days, and maybe long after the early days, there is a gap. You have to keep doing your craft in order to close the gap.  Honestly, I hope my aspirations are always higher than my skill level, so that I have something to strive for. 

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  1. Margaretmotamed on October 17, 2011 at 10:08 pm

    Thank you for the reminder that although starting many things can be creative and rewarding, finishing everything is not possible… Better to stop a few successful projects early .. Something I am learning from @LyssaAdkins

  2. deb on October 18, 2011 at 5:07 pm

    Great stuff. And I don’t know why, but I think I like it better because you said “crap.” 🙂

  3. carolross on October 18, 2011 at 6:07 pm

    Thanks, Margaret and Deb for your comments.

    Margaret–I’m intrigued by your comment of framing the 80% as things that can’t be finished or which are successful but should be stopped early. I had in my head that the 80% is stuff that is “complete” and just isn’t that good. Thanks for a different take, as this points to planting many seeds to begin with and then focusing your efforts on the best of the best.

  4. carolross on October 18, 2011 at 6:11 pm

    Deb–“crap” definitely has a ring to it, in addition to providing a distinct visual image. As a fellow writer, I think we both gravitate to words that create a visceral feeling!

  5. Margaretmotamed on October 20, 2011 at 8:31 pm

    Hi Carol
    I am focused on portfolio management currently… thinking about how can decide what to put energy into, or resources, or money. Which translates to stopping the “less” successful projects. Of course you could choose to only start a few things and put the filter early.

    Your post was another way of thinking – another perspective for me on why starting many things can be a good thing – if you are willing to stop some of them later.

    Agile frameworks talk about iterative development and failing fast. I just related all of these ideas together when watching the video above.

    Just a bunch of seeds of ideas to share.

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