Jamming on a WIP

For whatever reason, while I’ve known the power of collaboration in my head, my heart generally inclined itself to stay hush on my works in progress (WIP). Some reasons:

  • I don’t mind telling friends or people, I just also don’t want to tell everyone; there’s the paper suggesting that publicly announcing your goals could make you less likely to achieve them
  • There’s also the pressure that comes with increased expectations; the running joke about how authors should never tell people that they’re working on a book—because they won’t stop asking about it—comes to mind.
  • From a traditional operations perspective, it’s best to minimize the amount of WIP; to take things from start to finish as fast as possible, before starting on another thing. That’s not exactly how work goes now though; on a large enough scale, everything is always in WIP! The creator needs to draw the creative process to the close. Talking about WIP, and opening it to criticism and expansion, felt like it opposed efficiency.

When I started developing a new series of articles for Figma, I’d already sourced a handful of stories, developed a sense of the structure I wanted, and could even communicate the idea through a meme. I floated the idea that I could tweet out a call for stories, and my coworker was extremely supportive of it. This initial bolster helped me work through an emotional block; my inner critic received permission. So, one day, against my usual inertia, I put it out there:

I also circulated my tweet to my coworkers as well, asking them to help signal boost and if they knew anyone who fit the mould.

It turned out in a surprising way; in a fraction of the time and energy, I received new stories, introductions, and ideas from several people. One coworker pointed me to this video some other co-workers at Figma had already made, which I hadn’t seen before:

The experience was very energizing, and so were the stories and the video (the topic of copywork came up!). It was fascinating to learn about so many non-traditional paths towards design; I feel like I took a very non-traditional path into writing books and editorial work, and could entirely relate to a lot of ideas.

There’s a meta-takeaway here: make your work a team sport. Even if you’re still doing most of the work, a quick conversation with a trusted peer, getting gut checks, etc., can enable you to do things that you wouldn’t have done on your own. There’s a thick line between knowing and doing, and it could help you break Solomon’s paradox.

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