Fear of the critical finish line

I’m always afraid of finishing anything.

Hours or days or sometimes even weeks go into a project and, when I’m there at the end where the big picture is starting to seem a lot clearer and I’m only making small changes, I’ll start to get scared.

Like a runner who sees the finish line but doesn’t want to know his time or whether he’s in first place or last place, fearing it may be the latter.

When I’m just about to finish a project, I’ll start to run hypothetical scenarios through my head. I’ll think: what if nobody likes this? What if nobody wants it or understands it? What if I only hear about how awful it is or how I shouldn’t have wasted my time?

I feel like the cook who made all the preparations for a big dinner but then stopped and didn’t take the food out of the oven, fearing that I might have burnt it.

Undoubtedly the biggest fear I get is that of the critic, of the person who will say that what I’ve made is terrible, that it shouldn’t have ever been made. That my time was wasted.

I have to remind myself that the critical review isn’t important. What’s important is that I did the work, I made something. Something nobody else could have (or would have) made, because it’s got my unique stamp on it. So there’s value in getting it done, shipping it out, crossing that finish line.

Nobody else is going to create the dish you can create. They don’t have your experiences to build from, or your hands to build with, or your thoughts and perspective. You didn’t build the thing for the critics, you built it for those who want to enjoy it. So there’s really nothing to fear. The critics will come, but they always do.

What matters isn’t that they tell you what you’ve created is worthless. What matters is the people who love it telling you (and everyone they know) that they do.

To quote Seth Godin in his recent article The critic stumbles:

The math is simple: no matter how big a critic’s platform, what moves markets are conversations. And we are far more likely to have conversations about something we’re raving about than something we didn’t like (because when we don’t like it, our friends never experience it and the conversation dies). The win, then, is creating raves, not avoiding pans.