Project Hangovers & Self-Criticism by Sarah Peck

Project Hangovers and Self-Criticism

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

I want nothing to do with it. I see it in all of the flaws, errors, imperfects. 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 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.

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.

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 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–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 8 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 (final?) 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.

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.

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

Of course, sometimes the work is bad, and I cringe, and I learn–but sometimes, I finally see.

Good job.

Alright, Carry on.


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