Real artists ship

Steve Jobs said that. At least, it’s attributed to him.

There’s a story concerning the shipping of Macintosh in 1984. The deadline was coming closer and closer while the computer still had significant bugs. The team worked around the clock without sleeping and showering. When the software team proposed Steve to release a demo version instead and then a fixed “proper” version to customers a couple of weeks later, Steve responded with:

“No way, there’s no way we’re slipping! You guys have been working on this stuff for months now, another couple weeks isn’t going to make that much of a difference. You may as well get it over with. Just make it as good as you can. You better get back to work!”

How many masterpieces of poems, books, paintings, photos, business ideas are out there that have never seen the daylight? Poems in the drawer, manuscripts that are collecting dust, e-books on a hard drive, paintings half-done. My guess is, too many.

It’s a rare skill to ship your work. Steve Jobs understood that perfectly when he insisted on shipping the Macintosh no matter what. It’s important to get it out there. If you start postponing, you will end up not shipping it at all.

There’s always something to improve. Always! In fact, your work will never be perfect.

Seeking for perfection is a trap. If you look at nature, is there such thing as perfectionism? No, there is not. The trees, the animals, the insects, the birds, the mountains are not perfect. They just are. This is how we should approach our art as well.

It doesn’t mean we should ship sloppy work. Of course not. There’s no excuse to ship out an article full of grammar and punctuation mistakes. We should always do our best when creating our work.

Seth Godin talks about shipping in his book “Linchpin,” and this is what he says:

The only purpose of starting is to finish, and while the projects we do are never really finished, they must ship.

Emphasis on the last part: they must ship!

If you ship your art, you can always make it better later. Maybe not that particular work but your overall art. A painting that’s been shipped out can’t really be tweaked any more, but the painter can make the improvements concerning his or her next works of art.

This is the approach we should take. We shouldn’t worry so much about one specific work, but our overall work. You ship, then make it better.

Picasso was always shipping. He understood how important it is. We don’t always feel that our work is great. In fact, sometimes we think we have no inspiration and that our art is not going very well. We have to ship it anyway. It’s that important.

There are no excuses. Even if you think you have no good ideas, you need to ship. Ship the bad ideas. Every once in a while, a good one will come.

If you’re a photographer and you think you’re only taking crappy photos not worthy of being published, do and ship the crappy photos. It will be a matter of time when a good one appears.

Give something every day. Give your gifts to the world.