“Write more” is not an uncommon new year’s resolution. It’s completely expected that come January 1st, my Twitter feed will be speckled with pledges to “write X-words a week”. This is not a bad thing. I’ve had the same resolution for several years. The problem was that I always struggled to follow through with it. So much so, that until now, I don’t think I can recall a year where I even made it past the first week.
I’m only up to week two-ish, and it’s an early call, but I think the reason I’ve never made it past week one is because writing regularly is hard. It is hard because writing regularly requires you to also share regularly. Provided you actually choose to share something, sometimes you have to share small things and sometimes you have to share big things. Sometimes it’s positive and other times it isn’t. Sharing can be made public or it can be completely private. Regardless of whatever and whichever way you’re sharing, sharing requires you to give away a piece of yourself. It requires a certain amount of self-realisation and exposure and this, in turn, can leave people feeling very vulnerable. Some people are completely comfortable with this, most people aren’t.
I’m one of the many people who aren’t and I know that I don’t share as much as I would like. Despite being fully aware of this, I recognise and appreciate just how powerful sharing can be. Not only in satisfying a desire to write, but also in how it can improve us as designers and the work that we do day-to-day.
This week was one of those weeks where everything seemed to take ten times longer and be ten times harder than it should be. I’ll put this out there right now, I have these weeks way more than I’d like to admit. I think about this issue a lot and I’m starting to find that the best way to battle these weeks is to reach out to other people. Anyone. Share your problem; ask a question to get your mind thinking in a new direction. Share the need to have a little rant. Get an outside perspective and share that 20% finished thing you’re only vaguely happy with so you can push it that next 80%. Share the fact that you need help. Share a little, share a lot, share what you need. If you’re like me, this is not easy. But push yourself. Share. Share. Share. You’ll be thankful you did. I’m still learning exactly how to go about this every day without feeling totally vulnerable.
Beyond my own daily experience, there are two other areas where I recognise the concept of ‘sharing’ to be particularly useful: in learning — by sharing processes and workflows — and in peer support — by sharing learned experiences.
I am a self-taught designer, with some self-taught front-end skills. I learnt everything I know from examining other people’s work and learnt the most from people who shared the steps they took to reach their shiny end products. Sharing bits or all of your process will help you refine your own workflow and will also help new designers learn. Hopefully, these new designers will be the designers you hire in the future so I think that it pays to make sure they have the best resources available to them. Make them great. By all means, share the polish — we all like the polish — but also make a conscious effort to share the scratches from your sketchbook. I can guarantee you that people will learn a great deal from both even if it looks like nothing to you. Here are a some recent people I have learnt something from because of their willingness to share (links go to locations relevant to this post):
… The observation that there are very few web designers on that list, when I search mostly for web related workflows, is not lost on me.
Perhaps harder than showing half finished, unpolished work is sharing your experiences. Particularly the hard experiences. It is so easy to move forward celebrating the wins all while sweeping the failures, the doubts and the hard-turns under the mat. Some people don’t share these experiences because they’re not comfortable sharing them, and some people don’t share their experiences because they feel struggle, anxiety, failure or even self-doubt is taboo.
The flip side to this, however, is that by sharing our experiences we can let those people, floating out in designer-land, know that they are not alone. Sharing our experiences can give someone struggling with a similar issue the inspiration and motivation to move through their own issues. As you can tell, I’m very fond of people who are willing to share something they’ve been through or be brave enough to lay it all out on the table and say “This is how it is. It’s shit, but I’m learning/have learnt from it and I’m sharing it so you can learn from it too.” Sharing our experiences helps everyone be better and feel better.
Here are some posts I’ve read recently from people willing to share their experiences:
I realise that I’m very quick to talk about the above when I previously mentioned that I don’t share as much as I’d like to. Though, and as cliché as this sounds, I think that as long as you can realise the importance of sharing and the need for you to do so, that’s half the battle done. The rest of the battle is purely a mental and emotional one. Are you confident enough to share? Am I confident enough to share?
I’ll finish off by telling you that we’re two weeks into writing for Two in Fifty Two and we have 50 more articles to share. The first article was hard to write. Very hard. The second — this one — slightly less so. I think that’s telling enough. Let’s see where we’re at at Donut #52. I hope I can be an expert sharer by then.
Oh, and please tweet me if you know of any designers sharing their process or experiences. I’d love to check them out.
Sharing is incredibly important in this industry and if it doesn't come easy to you, it will push you far out of your comfort zone. It pushes me way, way out of mine. All I can say is "try it". I am, and it's getting easier each time.