I bet you know this: You’ve created something – a drawing, a layout, a video, a piece of code, or a blog post – and after you’re more or less done, you pause and you look at it. And you don’t like it.
Maybe it is a little detail that is not right, or maybe you don’t like the whole piece for reasons you cannot explain. Whatever it is, you are just sure that this one piece of work isn’t particularly good. Or is it?
Whenever I’m in such a situation or people mention feeling the same way, I have to think about an interview Debbie Millman did for her Design Matters podcast. In their lovely conversation, comic artist Lynda Barry told a story about one of her teachers in art school. Lynda had just finished a drawing. She and her teacher were looking at it, when Lynda said: “I don’t really like this drawing.” Her teacher paused, then she went:
“The drawing is already here. It’s none of your business whether you like it or not.”
For Lynda, this was the crucial moment of her entire career. She realized that there is another way to look at her work besides just asking “do I like it or not?”
You don’t have to like your work for it to work. Liking or not liking it isn’t the essential part of making something. As long as you are the only judge and as long as it is unpublished, even, what’s the difference whether you like it or not? Or, to put it another way: everything you create will only work if it helps other people or if they like what you created. Every piece of art that is supposed to have a value and impact in our culture is meaningless unless it is seen by someone. Only by the interplay between your work and the people who interact with it, its real value will reveal itself.
So, if you did your best when you created a piece of work, but your perfectionism or fear of judgement or lack of confidence makes you not like it, ask yourself: who is this piece for and will it work? And then, allow it to exist, to grow, to evolve, to improve, to fade away, or to shine. But first, make it work.