Don’t Sit on Finished Work

When time turns confidence to doubt

I have a design presentation tonight. I expect it will be a quick one, 10 minutes to show our ideas (rough pencil sketches with a couple of visual references) and another 10 to pick which direction to execute.

I am mortified. I’m worried that everyone in the room will think we’re lazy or that we didn’t do enough work since we’re just showing pencil sketches (which is what we always show). We finished the work for a Monday meeting but weren’t able to get it set up so we had to push back a few days. Those few days were all it takes for doubt to set in.

I’m now thinking I should have said “We’ll send the concepts to everyone and lets just have a conversation over email.” Not because that would be a good way to choose a direction (it wouldn’t) but because the work would be out in the world where it should be. It’s finished and it wants to be free. Instead it’s locked in a cage where it tries to mess with my head. This sucks. You’re lazy. They’ll hate it.

I’ve rarely regretted shipping something too early or without enough preparation but routinely regretted the posters designed but not printed, the articles written but not published, and the ideas that were discussed but not executed. Projects don’t get halted on their merits but because fear and self-doubt creep in and maintain the status quo — don’t try, don’t stand out, be average, or maybe even “this isn’t shiny and new anymore.”

I guess there’s two solutions:

  1. Ignore the self-doubt.
  2. Failing that, set hard, short deadlines and capitalize on Parkinson’s Law — that any project balloons to fill the time allotted to it—and therefore deprive doubt of it’s ability to sabotage your confidence.

Creative work is fragile enough. Don’t let fear undermine it.


Joshua Hardisty is a designer at Latitude and co-host of the design podcast Through Process. Originally published June, 2013 on 03surplus. Minor edits have been made.