blindfoldRule #1: Don’t fall in love with your work.

Okay, I don’t know what that’s the first rule of, but it should definitely be a rule somewhere. I learned that lesson (again) today.

A colleague and I were working on an ad, and we needed just the right image to reinforce the copy. We both started searching independently, forwarding links back and forth to photos that we thought might work. Then I found it. The perfect image. Even though I loved it, I tried to play it cool.

My colleague was less than enthused, but he did his due diligence and placed it in the ad to get a feel for it. He gave me thoughtful comments. The background was too busy; it would hamper readability. There wasn’t enough of a color pop to get attention. It didn’t lend itself to the overall design.

I didn’t argue with him, but I just knew it would work. It evoked exactly the kinds of feelings I wanted from the ad. Even so, I kept my comments to myself and kept looking, hoping he would see the light.

Eventually, we found another shot that worked well with the ad. It was completely different, but it worked. And it even addressed all of my colleague’s issues: it was simple, lent itself to readability, and offered just the right color pop. We had found a winner.

I still think my original image looked great, but I can’t argue that this one does, too–and probably more so. Yet if I had dug in my heels, I would have missed this opportunity. I would have been content the way things were rather than struggling to make them better. It’s easy to forget that often one’s best work arises from conflict, from being forced to think and rethink, from eschewing the easy and finding new solutions. When we fall in love with our own stuff, we run the risk of becoming blind to something better.

Of course, it’s no big surprise that I’ve been here before. Many moons ago, I wrote about the same challenge in Panning for gold, and later in Get over yourself. Why, oh why, does it take so many tries for me to learn the same lesson?

When you fall in love with your work, take off the blinders and fix it.

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