I have a confession.

Sometimes–more nearly like every time–after finishing a project, I hate it.

My writing class? Sucks, obviously. Last week's essay? Good God, that could have been better. All those open and empty drafts waiting to be finished? Seriously, could have worked harder to get those done. 

And on and on ... my brain and the ego mind can be wicked.

When a project is done and in the world, I want nothing to do with it. I see it in all of the flaws, errors, imperfections. All the ideas that didn’t transpire the way I wanted them to show up; the folds that didn’t turn into corners and angles the way that I wanted, the misprinted line weights, the typos, the sentences. The project in its fascinating speculations and then, the seeming sigh of its final iteration. The scalding difference between my brain’s dreams, desires and wishes and the tested, iterated manifestation of creating that product with my hands and resources.

It seems impossible to see the final product without the embedded knowledge of all of the processes that it took to get there. I wonder why on earth I did the project in the first place, and whether or not its worth anything. Surely, they’ll all hate it. The same is true on stage. I finish my talk, I finish the presentation, the idea, and I leave, not deflated, but with a fatigue from the project’s finale and the owner’s knowledge of everything that could have been or should have been, with the result left on the table. Everything left. Performance. Done.

Could have been better.

But I remind myself, each time: Messiness and imperfection are part of the process of creation. Manifestation and realization—bringing something to creation—requires endless amounts of decision making. There is a cruelty inherent in cutting out all of the ways you won't move forward, in order to move from the infinite boundlessness of ideas to the limited arena of conception. An idea always seems smaller when it becomes a practical thing. Perfection is an ideal that lives in our minds, a lifting, an aspiration, a drive towards the higher creativity we all have within us. The act of creation, however, is messy, fragile, fraught, and filled with the mistakes of making.

The secret grace of making (and pushing publish): The thing is, no one else knows what you know. What’s fascinating is that for all the razor-edged criticism I can muster, the audience is presented only with the work at hand; they see the work for the first time, with new eyes, with their own perspective. Everyone has a different opinion. Many see flaws I never saw. Conversations are sparked and ideas fly.

Sometimes the reviews are quite good.

Because I, the owner, cannot comprehend what it means to experience the data, the idea, the print, the drawing, the presentation for the first time. (This is why giving presentations is also so difficult). But the thing is they don’t know inside my brain, inside all of the things that could have been; they just see what is.

Your audience, users, customers, visitors–they don’t know what they don’t know. (There is grace in this). They don’t know the alternate version of the website. They don’t know the eight chapters that got chopped. They don’t know the fourteen other parts to your talk that you accidentally skipped over. They only know what they saw. What you gave them, in it’s presented version. Just because you know all the details, doesn’t mean that they do.

What does this mean? It’s important to remember to maintain enthusiasm through a launch, through a release. The birth of a project is a commencement for you–the end of the creation cycle–and the initiation of the new project in the audiences eyes. They experience newly. Look at it with their wonder. Try to visualize experiencing it for the first time.

Planning for the rhythms: making time to rest after production. It is important to also remember that a project life cycle has within it the natural hangover phase; the point at which you are so sick of hearing or thinking about it any more that it’s time to put the pencils down, pin the work up, step back, get feedback, and take a short rest.

An overnight to reconsider.

And preparing for this lethargic state, in my experience, helps wonders. I need to plan a night of quiet before the storm of publication or release. You can’t stop a launch after you release; rather, this is when the communications and marketing builds steam.

Practices for finding the good + restoring your energy:

  • Find the good. Think back to the moment you began, when this idea was nothing but an idea.
  • Thank yourself for having the grit to make something.
  • Thank yourself for showing up.
  • Write down at least a dozen things you did right in order for this to happen. List out all of the things you did right. (We're too quick to forget this).
  • Acknowledge how much energy and time you gave to the project, no matter how it turned out.
  • Acknowledge that you are smarter, wiser, and more learned that you were before.
  • Trust that you get to keep all the knowledge you built along the way. Even if the project goes in the trash, your skills stay in your mind.
  • Look to the long view, and remember that this is but one moment of many.
  • Forget about the project, and cradle your heart in your mind.
  • You did well.
  • You did good.
  • You are a good person.
  • That is all.

And sometimes, months later, I go back and look at the work that I did, the project, the talk, recorded digitally, the book, on a fresh counter top. And I realize, finally, strangely, after the time apart, that the work isn’t all that bad. Of course, sometimes the work is bad, and I cringe, and I learn–but sometimes, I finally see.

That maybe, in fact, I did a good job.

Good job.

Alright, Carry on.


This post was originally shared on It Starts With.


Sarah Kathleen Peck is the creator of It Starts With. She encourages people to use their voice, tell their story and cultivate kindness. She teaches writing and loves yoga. You can subscribe to her blog here

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