A project is a thunderstorm.
The pressure is barely noticable at the beginnings. You don’t recognize the pain under your eyes but the core design problems are cranking up the barometer and taking up residence in your sinuses.
How do users view this control? Do they understand it? How far do you push the mantra that users never read? If I make this sentence literally the only one in the content field on the page am I really supposed to believe they won’t see it? It grows. If management wants A and user design wants B and they can’t agree, can I get them to agree to C which makes sense to me, if I justify it well enough? Even if we’ve never done anything like it before? Even if there’s no data?
Then you’re hooked and you know you’re in for the long haul on a project that was suppoed to pass by with a few whispy clouds. You love the problem but the headache is worse and you want to hate the process. Just how many questions do we think we can cram into that 15 minute usability session anyway? If the user’s brain explodes all over the camera I’m not cleaning it up. What do you mean I have three days to draft 4 deliverables, polish one, and oversee two more and the content strategist who is supposed to write section 9 for the big one is at a conference for a week and a half?
The pressure rises, the storm grows and even though it’s not raining you start to wish for the release. You dream about it. You have nightmares. You explain it five times, ten, sixteen, each time gathering feedback and tweaking, tweaking, tweaking, until you think it’s almost good enough and solid enough to stand on its own.
By now dinner time has no meaning, sleep is filled with the problems, and the people, and the puzzles. And your head is pounding and you’re praying for rain, begging for it, screaming curses into the wind.
And then even though you could see it coming you’re surprised by the first clap of thunder and the first fork of hot white light in the sky and you smile.
This storm, this violent shaking of the leaves on the trees and the clap of charge rubbing against charge until something must release, is music in your soul. Every rumble is your heart and mind singing. You did it. You solved the problems in ways that made sense. You compromised and brow beat and found that tiny solution that was hiding in the back of your brain. The pressure is gone. The rain will fall. The thunder can begin.
For the first time in two months you can think without the pressure and you realize how much you need the pressure, because without the puzzle and the problem there is no storm, no violent beauty to wash clean your soul.
The first storm of spring was late in coming this year, and even now as I lay in bed watching the lightning and listening to far-away sirens, exhausted to the core, I’ve never felt anything so bright and clean.