By Greg Roth

Matt Dunne demonstrates that Ira Glass was right

Matt Dunne, a graphic artist in the Denver area, decided to invent a challenge for himself in 2017: he went out to the movies once a week and then made an animated GIF representing the theme of each movie. It’s an interesting creative exercise that requires commitment and focus. It’s also a grind that I know all too well.

He would share them each week via his Instagram account, but on his website, he’s posted once 2 minute video of all of them, embeded here:

In a short interview with Westworld, Matt shares thoughts on his process and what it took to sustain his effort level. In particular, I liked this answer to the question of how a rigorous schedule affects creative output:

What I liked about it was I always had something I was working on. The restrictions on it at times were frustrating because I had to make something. There were times where I thought, I shouldn’t even finish this, especially once we got to that June point where I said, I could at least say I did six months and be done with it. But it got to the point where I was like, well, I want to keep doing this.

Trying to do something so quickly, I didn’t want to be so much of a perfectionist about it, where I had to spend days working on it. I wanted to sketch something out and make it simple, so the idea could come across about what was happening in the movie but still make the GIF enjoyable to watch. I tried to make them no longer than five seconds; I wanted them to be easy to grasp. It was good for me to get practice on how to develop concepts quickly and deliver on that…to make something that people can react to.

Very reminiscent of Ira Glass’s fairly well-known quote about what it takes to be a creative professional and to get good at it.

“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or 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. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”

Whether you are the creative person, or the person who works with the creative person, remember this: there are no shortcuts. You have to do the work.