Pure Danger Tech


Ira Glass on creative work

20 Jul 2008

For weeks now I’ve been bookmarking a series of YouTube videos with Ira Glass (host of This American Life). Finally, I got some quiet and reflective time to watch and they were even better than expected. If you’re interested in story telling, the process of creation, or even just like his show, you might want to check these videos out (each is about 5 minutes):

Ira Glass: Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4

One item (from Part 3) that rings so true for me is the necessity when doing creative work of persevering through early periods when the work is not so good. One of the most important ways to get through this period is to simply keep producing. Eventually, you get better at it but if you don’t stick through the early part you never get good.

I feel like I’ve been through phases like this in a couple domains. When I first started writing code for a paycheck, I wrote a lot of crappy code. There’s not really any way around that as far as I can tell. I read a lot of books (and still do) from people I admire. I was lucky to be in an organization that had institutionalized code reviews so I reviewed a lot of both my own and other people’s code. But I think most importantly, I just wrote a large volume of code for years. And while I’m no coding genius, I think I’ve improved a lot since then.

I’ve been blogging now on this site since November 2006 and a prior blog has entries going back to August 2004. Only recently have I really started to have an idea what the hell I’m doing. Blogging (or in a broader sense writing) is something I’ve always enjoyed but I’ve written a lot of crap in the past. Thankfully I didn’t give up, because I now sometimes write things that I actually like.

The reason I’ve been thinking about this most recently however is that I’m now doing a fair amount of presentations, mostly through the No Fluff Just Stuff tour, but also JavaOne, user group meetings, etc. I don’t think I suck at it, but I’ve got a lot of room for improvement. I’m going through the same cycle of reading and studying ways to get better, trying different things, watching other speakers, etc. But I know ultimately I just have to keep doing it to get through this initial cycle.

If you’re going through a similar early period of creating but not loving the results, you may find these videos inspiring.

I also thought the storytelling aspects in Part 1 were great and applied equally as well to presenting. Sometimes it can be quite difficult to create a narrative around technical topics but when you can do that it works so much better.

If you liked those videos, you might find this bonus one of Ira amusing as well. He covers some of the same topics but also talks about a visit to the Onion and their process for creating content which is pretty amazing.

Ira on the Onion