Sometimes it’s helpful to walk away from something so that you can let it breathe. Sometimes you’re too involved with a piece of writing or a work of art or a website, or whatever to value it properly. And so, when you walk away from it, you’ll gain some perspective. But there’s something I’ve noticed, something that has troubled me about walking away from projects and then coming back to them later. It turns out that if you let something, anything, breathe for long enough you WILL learn to hate it. There are, I think, three things that make this happen.
It Might Actually Suck
There’s a chance that your work did in fact suck and that now, given some time and distance, you’ve been able to look objectively at it and realize the depths of its suckiness. It’s possible. It happens. Even great artists screw up from time to time and you’re probably not even a great artist, I know I’m certainly not. There’s a good chance if you think something sucks, it actually sucks. That being said, there’s nothing wrong with that.
Sometimes your work sucks. That’s ok. I’ve written bad posts, bad papers and I have an entirely anthology of songs and poems that, if released, would destroy my life. But that’s how things happen. If you didn’t make any terrible work, you’d never learn to appreciate your truly great work. Don’t.
You Might Have Learned A Few Things
It’s entirely possible that your work wasn’t bad, it was just immature. Maybe you didn’t know then what you know now and given the time and experience that has passed, you simply got better. It’s not that your previous work was bad, it just wasn’t evolved to where you are at now.
If you give your work time to breathe and you come back to it after a significant period of time and you haven’t learned anything new, you should probably just give up now. Not progressing, not learning, not growing are signs that you should quit while you’re not behind too far.
Everything Sucks and Everything Is Fine
Given enough space and time, we begin to doubt anything. It’s one of the reasons I edit sparingly. I find it so easy to second-guess myself, as do most creative. Anyone who makes things always thinks they could do better. It’s one of the things that makes being a creative so difficult. Sales people have numbers. “In order to be a good salesperson, I need to sell 400 things. I sold 400 things. That’s good”. But creative don’t have the luxury of things to sell. Even when an artist DOES sell their work they still question themselves. So, I’ve come to realize that at the core of everything there is a lie that you need to tell yourself to make things work.
Everything sucks…and everything’s fine. You work might not be the absolute best work that you can put out. And that’s fine. I’m not suggesting that you shouldn’t try to do better, but if you let things breathe for long enough, you’ll hate it. I look at sites I built two years ago and I want to vomit. I read posts I wrote four years ago and I want to die. I’ve gotten better, I think, at what I do but I also have the luxury of time and space.
It’s important to give your projects time and space. It’s important to take a step back, to remain objective and to do your best to make sure that the work that you produce is of a quality that you’re proud of. When you come back after hours or days or weeks or months and you think your work sucks, you’ve got three options. Either your work sucks, or you’re capable of better or it’s fine and you’re hallucinating. I don’t know for sure how to tell the difference but I assure you that there will be another post when I figure it out.