“It’s not ready yet.”
“It’s just a rough draft.”
“I need to polish this.”
“I’m not sure it’s fully developed.”
“It needs more research.”
“Let’s return to square one. Full redesign.”
There is no better feeling than delivering work that you know deserves an A+. You considered all the perspectives. The county clerk agreed to change your middle name to “feedback.” You revised again and again. You published. Presented. Delivered. Whatever. And you felt proud.
There’s a lot of value in this kind of work. In music, The War on Drugs comes to mind. Every measure of every track is produced with an obsessiveness unseen in the music industry this century. In non-fiction, it’s Malcolm Gladwell. He doesn’t aim to produce a high volume of pieces for The New Yorker. Instead, he aims to produce hits. He reasons that people don’t subscribe to The New Yorker for its weekly commentary. They subscribe so they can read the one to two smash hits the magazine publishes each year. This kind of artist will let you know when their work is ready. And don’t think for a second you can read or listen to it before it’s finished. It’s not ready yet.
But then there’s another kind of artist. This artist publishes albums that aren’t yet perfect. He writes essays that he knows aren’t his best work. She starts a business before perfecting her business model. Record labels, publishers, and investors think these people are crazy. But these artists know that remixes and live albums are the path to their best work. These artists know that the sub-par essay is the first stab at a bestselling novel. These business people know that if they never launch their business, they’ll never know if people are actually willing to pay for their products. These people ship. Before it’s ready.
Neither of these groups of people is better than the other. But when we’re hoarding our ideas—our art—that doesn’t serve anyone. We need to publish. Present. Ship.
We can always make it perfect next time.