by Tiffany Eaton
How writing 106 articles in a year has helped me grow as a designer
Consistency was never my strong suit. When I was younger, I remember kids my age keeping diaries or journals. My mom even got in the phase where she bought me a journal in the hope that I would write.
“What was the point?” I thought. Sure, it would be nice to look back to see what 9 year old me thought about life, but the main issue was that I was scared of making mistakes in my writing. I was scared that my writing would become a fabrication of events I had experienced with every fiber of my body in a moment of time.
My writing wasn’t authentic. I wouldn’t be able to convey my thoughts in an eloquent way. I hated the way I sounded. I never considered myself a writer so why start? These were some of the thoughts that ran in my young mind for a long time.
It wasn’t until my junior year of college when I experienced an event which changed the trajectory of my growing design career: My interview experience with Microsoft.
At that time, I had developed this facade where I thought I was a great designer, and that the pace at which I was learning was totally fine. I didn’t think of pushing myself to learn further, as I would probably do that once I started working. I was already in a good place in that I was getting all these interviews! That was validation enough — or so I thought.
When I found out that I got rejected from Microsoft, I was hurt. I didn’t know how to handle the rejection. I had worked so hard, and I thought I did great. Anyone who has gotten rejected knows how soul-sucking and bone-crushing the feeling is.
It wasn’t until this moment that I realized the way I was putting myself down was toxic, and I hated the fact I was making myself feel useless. I knew I had a lot more growing to do if I wanted to do big things and if I wanted to handle rejection in a way that encouraged action.
And action it was. I started reflecting on my experience to see where I could improve and put my feelings aside. I wanted to come to terms with rejection, but I wanted to do it in a way that would give insight to my interview experience for people interested in tech and preparing for interviews.
This is when I started writing about my Microsoft Onsite Interview Experience for the whole world to read. It was a way to reconcile the bitterness of rejection, so I could look back on my experience and improve from it moving forward.
As a result of writing about my experience, I was surprised to receive lots of encouragement and gratitude for sharing my story. I also found that when I was writing, I enjoyed the process of it all. I loved crafting a story, reflecting on my experiences, keeping a tangible benchmark of what I had learned so I could keep growing, and sharing my stories with other people so that they could gain something from them. I couldn’t stop at one story, I needed to write more.
…And here we are. One year later and I am (still) writing every week. So what did I learn from writing every week for a year?
Writing has allowed me to collect my thoughts
I believe our ability to reflect is so powerful because it allows us to come to terms with our deepest thoughts and encourage behavior change. Before I started writing, my mind was all over the place. I had so many thoughts but no outlet to filter them.
Writing has allowed me to dedicate a few hours of my time every week to sit down and start reflecting about the things I have done. This could be anything I have done during that week, month, or even in recent years.
Collecting my thoughts has made me think deeply about my experiences, questioning the things that went wrong or right. I’m now able to find something to learn from them.
As a result, I have been able to grow from my experiences and develop the mindset to think deeply about what I do, focusing on the moment and being aware of my surroundings so I can learn new things.
Writing has allowed me to come face to face with failure
Whenever I don’t succeed, I like writing about the experience because it causes me to think about things objectively and puts things into perspective. It also normalizes failure in that it isn’t something to be afraid of. Like in the design process, it’s better to fail early and fast.
I used to think failure was terrible. When it happened, I would feel devastated, but after a while I would get up and try again. In hindsight, failure has actually helped me learn more than some of my “successes”. Success was more of a validation as a result of failing a few times and trying again.
By writing about my experiences and putting them online, I was acknowledging the things that happened, whether they were successes or failures. Learning from our mistakes results in progress. In fact it accelerates it.
Admitting failure makes me feel vulnerable. But vulnerability has allowed me to channel my energy towards self-improvement instead of self justification, which didn’t allow me to acknowledge my failures. This results in complacency.
Writing has taught me how to organize and tell a story
Telling a story about your design is just as important, if not more, than the design itself. If you can’t get people to understand what you made, then your idea will be sure to die unless you can communicate it better.
The design is the reflection of the creator. Writing follows the same concept.
When I write, I get all my thoughts down on paper and then structure them into a coherent narrative my readers will be able to follow. Just like in design, you need to lay out all of your content, curate it, and tie it all together in an overlying narrative or message you are aiming to convey.
I believe writing has allowed me to tell better stories because it is a matter of organizing your thoughts and deciding what or how you are going to present them.
Writing has taught me consistency
There are weeks where I’m super proud of what I’ve written, and weeks where I feel my writing is terrible. In order to improve in writing, I had to keep writing despite how I felt or when I had writer’s block. I have found that when I challenge myself, I am actually able to think about lots of ideas. I just need to focus my energy.
The goal of consistency has engaged my mind to constantly think about making things rather than passively consuming. I would have never gotten to where I am now if I didn’t keep producing.
In design, the most important thing is execution — execute and worry about how you did it later. You won’t be able to get yourself out there if you care too much about how something looks. You need to see how something works in the real world before deciding if it’s worth your time or not to refine it.
Consistency has caused me to worry less about how something looks before uploading it because its all about making as many things as you can, iterating to build yourself or your brand, than sweating the small details.
Writing has taught me courage
When you put your work out in public, you are extremely vulnerable to criticism. Writing has allowed me to not be afraid of taking risks with what I write, as my resolve to get my message out there is more important than what people think of it.
An example is when I wrote a post about turning down an internship at Google. I received polarizing opinions about what I did.
My initial reaction to peoples’ reactions was: “Did I make the right decision? Should I just delete this post?”
I became extremely self-conscious, because some the comments towards me were so harsh and made me question how I portrayed my message.
As I continue to write, I realize that the most important thing for me is to take peoples’ criticism with a pinch of salt and stay true to my values in the light of doubt. It’s up to me to decide what I want to write, because I write for myself first.
Whenever you write things, you are bound to have people come up with assumptions. When that happens, you can ignore the comment or try to understand where that person is coming from and clarify your side to prevent misunderstanding.
Don’t let comments get the best of you. Sometimes the best work you produce is the result of taking risks and providing a point of view nobody has presented before.
Writing has taught me gratitude
By setting aside time to reflect on everything I have done, whether design related or not, I have been able practice gratitude for everything I have learned. I’m thankful for the people who have encouraged me to keep writing, friends, family, co-workers, and having the privilege to share my experiences with people who might not have the chance to do so.
What was once considered my weakness became my strength. Writing has given me opportunities to branch out onto other platforms, help other people, and become a role model for other designers who have been my position just starting out.
Writing has also allowed me to develop a voice, something I have been struggling with for years.
How will I continue to grow? For me, it is to keep sharing my experiences with the public, continuing to reflect on everything that happens to me, and learning from my successes and mistakes.
Check out my Skillshare Course on UX research and learn something new!
To help you get started on owning your design career, here are some amazing tools from Rookieup, a site I used to get mentorship from senior designers. If you use the links I provided below, you get a discount:
- Build a portfolio with help from an experienced designer
- Essential tools to strengthen and build your portfolio
- Take control of your time and career by becoming a freelancer
- Tips and tricks to get an amazing design job
Links to some other cool reads:
- The Downfall of Design Teams and Products- How to Recover and Facilitate Inclusive Design Culture
- I interviewed at Facebook as a new grad. Here is what I learned about design
- Standing Up as a Design Leader
- Journey Mapping is the Key to Gaining Empathy
- UX is Grounded in Rationale, not Design
- The Types of Design Research every Designer should know NOW
If you have any questions about design, message me on LinkedIn and I’ll write about it!