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Advice to Artists at the Beginning [video]

How does one know what is good art, and at what point should one give up on their inclination to create if what they do create is not up to par?

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Question after question could be asked of the artistic process – the exact nature of inspiration, how, when and why it strikes, to whom, and to what end. What is even more difficult to qualify is the nature of creativity itself. How does one know what is good art, and at what point should one give up on their inclination to create if what they do create is not up to par?

In this short clip, Ira Glass makes clear the perversity of self-doubt that afflicts nearly every artist at the beginning of their career. You may love the craft and know what is good, he seems to say, but it takes years of close study and hard work to master the craft. Bad art is a necessity to learning how to create the kind of art that goes on to transform those who encounter it. Don’t give up on your art when the work that comes out is terrible, but rather work through the bad instead. It may take years for what comes out to match your discerning taste, but the finished work will thank you.

This theme of patience with one’s work is matched by sentiments held by the critically acclaimed, Dominican-American writer Junot Diaz. As a professor of creative writing at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he comes across students who want to be great writers without committing themselves to the process of mastery. In typical fashion of those posts that go viral on tumblr, was this quote by Diaz who, saddened by the professional mindset some of the young people he comes across have towards the production of art, had this to say:

‎”You’d be surprised how many of my young, creative writers are not interested in pushing deeply into themselves. In fact, they think of this as more of another profession. They think of this not as an artistic calling, this is just a replacement for being a dentist. And I think that’s not uncommon. Rare is the writer who is serious about being an artist and doesn’t think about this as being a profession. If you think of your writing as a profession, I can always tell because you’re in a rush. You’re in a rush to get published. You’re in a rush to get applause. But if you’re thinking about this as an artist, the only thing that you’re in a rush to do is to f***ing be in life. And your art tends to come very, very slowly.”