staircaseToday I was thinking a lot about iteration.  It’s a concept from computer science that describes the process of building something, then going back to revise it, again and again.  It’s like my English teacher told me in junior high: just start writing and revise it as many times as you need.

This is something I’ve been teaching many of my students, in every subject I teach: Yearbook, Computer Science, Electronics, and Design Technology.  It’s also something I’ve been doing, with my writing in various forums, with my websites, and in the design of each of my courses.

Iteration is all about not being afraid to start, even though you know it’s going to suck at first.  In my experience, the best stuff I’ve created has sucked for around a couple of years before it really starts being something other folks notice.  This matches what an amazing creative, Ira Glass, has said about his own work (not that his sucks, but that this is true in general).  So it’s important to get over the fear of it sucking and just get started.

Then iterate. A lot. Revise it frequently. Get feedback from lots of people whose opinion you trust. Take criticism as a kindness, because praise doesn’t help you make it better (and you already know it’s not great, yet, so be skeptical of anyone who tells you it is, they probably just don’t want to see your feelings hurt).  Keep iterating.  And you’ll gradually see something you recognize as much better than when you started.

About two years into it, if you’re like me, you’ll start feeling like “yeah, this isn’t so bad after all.”  You’ll also have a much better idea of all the amazing things you could still do to improve it, which are the most important, which are the ones you really want to do, and so on.  Plenty more iteration to go!