The Gap

My Work Disappoints Me, and That’s Ok.

I’ve been struggling for the past few weeks with how to approach my work when I am not feeling passionate about it. For much of my professional history, I have approached my work from a mindset that is almost entirely strategic and analytical. This year I have made a concentrated effort to view myself and my work as inherently creative. I am just a couple of weeks away from finishing Ironhack Miami’s UX/UI Design Bootcamp, an experience that has pushed me to my creative limits. This piece is part of my reflections on this experience.

I’ve been struggling lately with my work. During the last 3 projects that I’ve worked on, I’ve begun to notice a pattern. At the start of each project, I’ve felt energized and motivated. The early days of a project require skills that, by this point in my career, I am fairly comfortable with: research, analysis, project management, and strategy. During these early stages, I am definitely in my element.

Something shifts for me once it comes time to execute on all of this strategic work. It’s a gradual shift that I didn’t pick up on during my first couple of projects.

Doubt and Frustration

Little by little, doubt starts to creep in.

The colors that I felt were perfect for the tone I was creating begin to feel bland or even jarring. Without noticing, an hour can pass by as I obsess over figuring out exactly why that font just feels off.

The next hour goes by in a similar fashion, this time it’s the size and color of a button that’s the culprit.

Eventually, my analytical mind chimes in:

What are you doing? You’re wasting time right now — the project deadline is in two days and you just spent +2 hours playing around with styling and nothing looks any different. Just pick something and MOVE ON!

Getting a finished product out isn’t something that I tend to struggle with. I’ve long since internalized the mantra that it’s better to deliver something than nothing and that it’s better to deliver it too early than too late. In the words of David Fast, my Ironhack instructor, “if you are are not embarrassed by your prototype [designs] then you are probably sharing them too late in the process.”

With that said, it is still deeply frustrating to look at my own work and to feel…dissapointed. I shared this frustration with David, and he offered me some sage advice in the form of a video.

The Gap: Why Creative Work can Feel Discouraging

Ira Glass discusses “The Gap” between expectations and reality and how this challenges new creatives.

In this video, Ira Glass describes “The Gap” that many new creatives experience between their expectations and vision for a finished project and the actual result.

The framing that Ira Glass offers here, which is that your ability to even detect that your work is disappointing you in the first place is a sign of your taste as a creative, was enormously reassuring to me.

“Your taste is still good enough that you can tell that what you are making is kind of a disappointment to you…”

— Ira Glass on experiencing “The Gap”

What’s the Point?

When I asked David for his advice, he shared two things with me:

  1. The video that I just shared with you.
  2. That the only thing to do when you feel stuck, bored, frustrated, or disappointed is to roll up your sleeves and get back to work.

I’ve read plenty of articles from other designers and creatives who share frustration with their work. From what I can tell it seems like this kind of frustration will never really go away, and if I am serious about pursuing a career in design I’ll just have to make my peace with that.

But that’s not to say that my work won’t improve. In the same neighborhood as David’s “just do something” approach, Ira Glass also shares some insight on how to overcome “The Gap.”

“The most important possible thing that you could do is do a lot of work”

— Ira Glass on overcoming “The Gap”

So, next time I’m feeling a little sick of looking at my designs I’ll get myself another cup of coffee, maybe have a stretch, and then roll up my sleeves and get back to work.

Some Final Thoughts

Even as I am about to publish this I can hear a voice in my head saying that something just isn’t good enough. My answer to that voice: sitting down to write this is just another exercise in creating that “huge volume of work” that Ira Glass suggests. Could it be better? probably. And that’s ok.

Thanks for reading. If this story resonated with you at all I’d love to hear your experience with “The Gap.” Let’s connect on LinkedIn.

Product Designer — Coffee Drinker. Let’s create together: https://www.linkedin.com/in/dostergren/

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