“Good enough”, my mantra for the year, has a dark side. On the one hand, yes, I need to just do it – show up, do the work, put it out there, get on with the next thing. But on the other… well. There is such a thing as quality control.
It’s really hard for me to produce creative work when I’m constantly second guessing myself. I tie myself in knots with questions about whether what I’m doing is smart enough, original enough, creative enough. Whether it’s “worth” releasing. The thing is, once you start asking those questions, you get buried: what would be clever enough, pretty enough, interesting enough? Can I even think of anything that hasn’t been done to death? Do I have an ounce of creativity in my oh gods I need a chocolate break. I’ll get back to this later. When I’m better rested, more inspired, just plain better.
I read a great article this morning on “overcoming the resistance“. It’s directed at bloggers, but applies equally to all kinds of enterprises.
The Resistance will tell you that your castle needs to be big and beautiful in the first week, month, or year. But you know better than to listen to The Resistance. You don’t focus on what it’s not, you focus on what you’re doing: Laying bricks that will someday (probably not someday soon, but someday) be a big and beautiful castle.
Looking at it this way, I can’t waste time inspecting each brick. A brick is just a brick. Some may be better than others, but really, it’s not the individual bricks that matter. Do the work. Put it out there. Get on with the next thing.
And indeed, a simple pattern that I almost didn’t publish has taken off (in a quiet way) since the Gift-Along. People have told me they loved it and knitted it twice. If I’d listened to my fears that it was too plain, too basic, not worth it, I would have missed out, and so would those knitters.
But… about that quality control.
There is a thing called the halo effect: you might call it just the power of first impressions. People, all people, tend to let their judgment of a person’s work be coloured by the first example they see. I bet you can recall this happening in your own life: the teacher who always loved your essays after one great effort, the boss who believed you had a punctuality problem ever since you were late just once in your first week. Are you doing yourself a disservice, allowing the possibility that the first thing someone sees of you isn’t your absolute best?
Last year I shot myself in the foot, trying to “just do it”; in this case, to just write it. I’m not a writer; then again, I’ve always been a writer. I blog compulsively (not necessarily often, but compulsively!). Pretty much everyone I know has always assumed I would end up writing professionally. I got it into my head that in 2014 I was going to Do Writing.
This was maybe not the smartest goal to set, at a time when I’m so underslept and overstressed. Lacking time to focus on writing properly, I didn’t develop the articles I most want to write. But I did write something one night, in an intense fit of frustration, that I felt needed urgent expression. I submitted it to a website that same night. I woke up the next day knowing it wasn’t right for that site. In fact… bluntly? It wasn’t very good. It might have gotten good, maybe, if I’d taken time to reflect, revise and thoroughly polish it, rather than trying to “just do it”. But I didn’t. And now that editor is not likely to look on my next submission particularly favourably. Why should she? I didn’t show her my best work.
There is one little throwaway word in that Food Blogger Pro post I linked earlier:
The more quality bricks you lay the better your castle will be.
I think I’m figuring this out. You have to put stuff out there, yes. You have to make, and do, without overthinking. But you have to make it well. Don’t question whether it is worth doing, but work hard on making sure it’s done right. In the case of knitting design, this distinction is actually relatively easy. Do sweat: clear pattern writing, good photography, thorough editing and testing. Don’t sweat: whether anyone will like the actual design. If they do, and if they buy the pattern, they won’t be let down. If they don’t… Egal. It’s another sturdy brick in my wall.