Don't (only) look down
Earlier this week, I spoke to a friend who was on the job hunt. She sent over an announcement post she was planning to share, asking for advice on specific words in the post. We spent a few minutes on it, and I asked her when she planned to post it. In response, she said,
“I don’t know. I’ve been sitting on this for months.”
Whoa! Turns out that she’d been optimizing every word and going back and forth on tiny tweaks of language every few days but didn’t feel any closer to sharing the post when we chatted than she described having been a month ago.
It was sort of wild to me that she’d spent all this time keeping the very thing that would move her along in her journey this close to her chest.
I mean, I say that, but it’s not really that wild. Unsurprisingly, I totally related to how she was feeling. If I had a dollar for every poem I used to not publish or share but instead prevaricate over a couple of synonyms until I got so burnt out or attached to a vision of the poem that probably wasn’t ever really attainable, I’d be a very rich man.
But what speaking to my friend made me realize is how differently we view our work in progress than our audiences often do. What my friend was experiencing, and what I could relate to, was the feeling of taking our own creations too personally; the feeling that the progress we put into the public sphere says something “final” about ourselves, even if we know that the work is not.
Have you ever done something working so hard on the specific wording of an email to your boss or execs, only to be surprised (and maybe a little embarrassed) when you receive a one-line reply seconds later that you were anticipating needing to wait hours or days for? I think it’s easy to get so trapped in the weeds of our work that we forget 1) that getting the work out is often much more valuable than getting the work right, that 2) no single piece of work we share with the world defines us in totality, and that 3) when we take our noses out of our work, we often give ourselves the opportunity to realign to what’s most important in the work we do.
I won’t end this with something crudely clever.
Instead, I’ll just plead that you embrace the typos.
Your audience knows what you’re trying to say.
And chances are, you don’t need to say it without mistakes.
You just need to say more of it.