Ira Glass, in defense of making bad work


As the NPR junkie I’ve slowly become over the last year or two, it’s expected that I hold a great deal of respect for Ira Glass, the host of This American Life. I listen to the podcast regularly, and I admire the storytelling, the tone, the ambition, the contributors, the craftsmanship behind the show.

Glass and the other producers focus not on capital-N capital-E News Events, but on people. In what I sometimes see as a landscape of over-saturated, sensationalized “news,” conversational storytelling that sticks with a listener for days, months or years after is a breath of Fresh Air. (See what I did, there?)

During my first year of college, before I had decided to pursue journalism, my roommate and her mom took me to see Glass speak at Durham Performing Arts Center. The way he spoke about radio as a medium, one that presents stories in a way that avoids visual biases and allows for listeners to imagine their way through a story, inspired and excited me. It confirmed my belief in the power of language and, simply, the power of making original things.

Soon after seeing him at DPAC, I came across this quote of his for the first time.

Ira Glass Quote

And the quote, like so many TAL episodes, has stuck with me. My most recent New Year’s resolution, in part, was to cut myself some slack and remember that I am still navigating this stage of my life, so just making a LOT of creative work is the best thing I can do right now.

It’s a pretty universal concept to be paralyzed into inaction by the fear of being bad at something. However, I’m trying to learn to take the very fact that I care enough to be afraid of pursuing it—and failing at it—to mean that I care about the outcome. Fear of failure just indicates passion for something, which really is all the more reason to go for it. And accepting the failure (i.e. the bad work) eventually leads to truly great work.


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