The Taste Gap

Jul 7, 2021

When I first started to code, everything I wrote sucked. I kept writing code for the first couple of years, but I knew what I was making wasn't good. I would look at good code and wonder why mine wasn't as good. As Socrates would say, I know that I know nothing. You can realize just how much work is in front of you. Most people quit at this stage.

Ira Glass, the host of This American Life, calls this the Taste Gap. Having good taste encourages creatives to create, but the outcomes don't live up to expectations in the first few years. That's the gap. Nearly every creative feels it.

Glass's advice to beginners is to keep going. He suggests that the best thing you can do is create a large volume of work. Keep practicing. I know this is good advice because it worked for me. I kept practicing my programming, and eventually, I came out the other side.

Now, I'm trying to close the taste gap with writing. I've set a daily goal of writing something. But, sometimes, it doesn't seem like I'll ever close the taste gap. Sometimes, you need to trust the system.

Here's the interview transcript of when Ira Glass famously introduced the Taste Gap.

Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, and I really wish somebody had told this to me.

All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But it's like there is this gap. For the first couple years that you're making stuff, what you're making isn't so good. It’s not that great. It’s trying to be good, it has ambition to be good, but it’s not that good.

But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is good enough that you can tell that what you're making is kind of a disappointment to you. A lot of people never get past that phase. They quit.

Everybody I know who does interesting, creative work they went through years where they had really good taste and they could tell that what they were making wasn't as good as they wanted it to be. They knew it fell short. Everybody goes through that.

And if you are just starting out or if 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. Do a huge volume of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week or every month you know you're going to finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you're going to catch up and close that gap. And the work you're making will be as good as your ambitions.

I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It takes awhile. It’s gonna take you a while. It’s normal to take a while. You just have to fight your way through that.

—Ira Glass