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Shop Talk: Failure and Monday Morning Disease


I figured I’d write a post about work today. I don’t do that a lot and maybe I should. I don’t know. Do you guys wonder how I spend my days working away with my clicky-mouse? I just have been thinking on something lately and thought I’d share it.

Above is a logo I’m working on for a client. I don’t think she’ll mind me sharing. I thought it was pretty good. I spent a lot of time on it and thought I had it in the bag. The client liked it too but then a day passed and she sent me an email asking me if I could tweak it into more of a 50’s-60’s style. She even sent me some pictures for reference. Which is really nice by the way.

My first reaction was rebellion. I do this a lot. I call it my Monday Morning disease. Because way back in the day when I worked in an office, I would always feel overwhelmed by work on Monday. It seemed like every sales person in the whole office had some project for me to do RIGHT AWAY! RIGHT NOW! STRESS STRESS! STRESS! But then magically, Tuesday would roll around and everything that seemed so overwhelming and impossible on Monday seemed just plain normal and doable. I could count on it. So after a while I started to ignore my Monday morning freak-outs, knowing that they would dissipate by Tuesday.

I don’t know why I am this way but I’m always on the defense right away and it’s stupid. But I always do it. When my client asked me to “tweak” the illustrations towards a more 50’s-60’s theme, my first knee-jerk reaction was to freak out. Do you think I have a button I can push to make it 50’s-60’s, I thought angrily to myself? Is that some kind of photoshop filter I don’t have? Of course I would never say this to a client in real life because it would just be rude and over time I’ve found that I always regret pushing back.

So I sat on it for a day. I wrote a polite email to the client saying that I could probably do what she was asking but that it would mean going back to the drawing board and starting over. I thought she’d dismiss that idea and stick with the original logo that was obviously just fine, right? Nope. She didn’t. And I’m so glad.

That night I took my laptop to bed and while the kids slept on the floor around me (they like having “sleepovers”) I clicked away into the wee hours of the morning.


I came up with this.


And this.


And this.


And this!

I’m not done yet. She’s asked to see a few more designs but I love the new art so much better than the old. I’m so glad I kept my Monday Morning disease to myself.

Do you guys have this problem? Is your knee-jerk reaction to think that you can’t?

A while back I landed a big job with Turbo Tax and got the opportunity to create twenty-some icons for their website. The turn-around time was crazy. I got the job on Friday night and it was due before Monday morning. That’s probably the reason I got the job in the first place. Who else can turn around something that fast? A freelancer who is desperate enough to work all day and all night of course.

At first I thought there was no way possible that I could do it. I don’t even illustrate in that clip art style. But after much discussion with my friend Heather, who I was staying with at the time, I decided to take a crack at it. I downloaded their existing icons and started to take them apart with my mind. Sure enough, the shadows and highlights were just shapes filled with gradients and not that hard to put together. I just had to dissect it piece by piece and not get overwhelmed by the whole.

The job went swimmingly and I ended up getting them all done with plenty of time. But I wouldn’t have if I’d let my Monday Morning disease get the best of me.

Not that I’m all peaches and cream all the time now that I’ve learned this lesson. I’m still learning it with every single job. But I definitely have raised the bar for what I think I can do. Anything is possible.

I watched this video a while back and found it really helpful. Maybe there is some other freelance artist out there wondering what direction their path will take and fearing failure. I think this will encourage you:

Milton Glaser – on the fear of failure. from Berghs' Exhibition '11 on Vimeo.


  • bethany

    Thank you for naming that disease! I get it every time I get “this is wrong!” from a client. I balk, want to argue, and push back. Then I panic and think I won’t be able to do it at all, why can’t they like the first one, etc … and it almost never fails that what I produce (after being challenged) is way better. Very true for my current logo job, and I’m so glad I sat on it for a couple of days before replying! I take a real ego hit when they don’t like something, as if it’s personal. It’s not, but what you create does feel like a piece of you and why can’t they just like it already and move on?! Great post, of course I’d love to hear more about your work :).
    And I should have started with “love the logos!” and agree that the 2nd batch is even more delightful than the first, though I initially thought the first ones were perfect. LOVE the round trees and doors and the bike, adorable and evocative.

  • Sonja

    I know that disease so well! I have this tendency to overcommit and then procrastinate until it seems that it’s impossible for me to do what I set out to do.
    It’s often true though that when I actually sit down and DO IT, I actually can do it just fine.

  • Whimsical Woman

    Not only can you create, you have a way with words as well! Thank you for sharing the process and you’re absolutely right. Its like we have to get our initial ideas out of the way before something really great appears! Please keep sharing about your work as you are an inspiration.

  • Jen

    My first reaction is always, “This is good stuff and what ever you want me to do to it will ruin it.” But usually I get over myself and realize that my opinion isn’t always perfect. Most of the time…. but not always. Haha!

    I do love the feel of the second set. It seems very french for some reason. Maybe it’s all the berets?

  • Auntie Keren

    ooooh you had me remembering when I was a diner-cook! The orders would start coming fast and furious (and with substitutions-bleh) and I would see myself going down in flames and I would walk(run) out of the kitchen into the walk-in freezer. Deep breath, push down panic; I only have to do one order at at time, my manager would say. Before I knew it, my shift was over and I had done over 200 meals…whew. BTW funny; I think of London, Beatniks, Bee-Hive Hair-Dos, and white lipstick when I think 50’s-60’s Of course, I was a kid in Japan—what do I know?

  • Madge

    My biggest problem with work is focus. Many people like a lot of the same thing so by the time I’m making an item for the 20th time I just want to run away from it. Lots of times I do run away and work on stuff that makes me happy. This puts me even further behind, but I am who I am. I don’t think there is any chance of changing me now.

    I really like the new work you created. Great job!

  • Angella

    Monday Mornings are of the debbil.


    You are a creative genius, my friend. Those banners above (and mine) are a testament to that fact.

  • gingermog

    Hi this post is so close to my heart . I understand the feeling of angry rebellion when asked to change something especially if it’s on a whim by someone who doesn’t realise how long it takes to design/animate. Great designs by the way. I love the 50’s -60’s illo style as well. X x

  • K

    I read a quote somewhere and wrote it down so I would always remember – “Don’t let the thought of being overwhelmed overwhelm you.” Not sure who said it or where I saw it, but I think it’s a great quote.

  • Kate

    Oh thank you! I too have clients that want info RIGHT NOW and it always initally seems so “AHHHH how am I going to do it” overwhelming.

  • BeachMama

    I am going to use that name now!! I was just telling a client tonight that my job evolves each and every day. One day I am shooting models in NYC the next I am shooting a green screen with Harley Davidsons. Then next thing I know I am shooting new storefronts for a builder. If I let those Monday Morning Disease Moments get the better of me I wouldn’t be doing half the cool jobs I get to do :)

  • cath

    Ohhhh I call that the line of preciousness. I’m allowed to be precious about my work until I first reveal it to the client. At that point, I symbolically put everything on a platter, and hand it over. I’ve done what I think is my best work, I’m justifiably happy with what I have produced, and can pat myself on the back. leading up to the line of preciousness too, my ego is very fragile, and I warn people of this.

    At that exact moment of handover, the client steps in, and accepts my precious piece of artwork. Initially they are invariably enthralled and then as day turns to night they start to want to stamp their own identity on what has now become their piece of artwork.

    Knowing this is the process I find I get a lot more enjoyment out of my creative work, and also out of my follow on work. It’s like I can feel the divide, and see where we are at in the process.

    God love our clients. Life would be so much simpler without them, just a lot less rewarding.

  • Heather

    I’m always quick to get defensive. When you work so hard on something and are so proud of the results how dare someone come back and say it’s anything but perfect. I really like the last option you posted with just the bird and the bubble.

  • Kuky

    Yeah I like hearing about your work too. Maybe one of these days I’ll freelance. But I don’t think I could come up with ideas like you can.

  • Allison

    Brenda, I don’t comment much, but I really enjoy your posts about your slice of life. I’m a graphic designer myself and this post resonates with me so much!!! It is great to hear other creatives feel the same way as me and aren’t afraid to admit it. Very inspiring post. :)