Don’t Hide Your Art; Ship it

It was early 2015 when I dreamed of blogging to appease my curiosity and share the lessons I learned through self-reinvention.

After a few months, I realized it wasn’t easy as I thought. It took me more than a year to ship, which in fact, attainable in a few days or weeks.

Shipping — a discipline I learned from Seth Godin — means making an idea into a reality or delivering a finished product for the world to see.

Truth is, anyone can come up with an idea, but only few can bring it to fruition. Why?

“To merely start without finishing is just boasting, or stalling, or a waste of time. I have no patience at all for people who believe they are doing their best work but are hiding it from the market. If you don’t ship, you actually haven’t started anything at all. At some point, your work has to intersect with the market. At some point, you need feedback as to whether or not it worked. Otherwise, it’s merely a hobby.” — Seth Godin

The reason is Fear.

Fear holds us back from shipping our ideas, projects, arts, or any creations. It’s the reason we’re stuck and why until now, our masterpieces are invisible.

It also prolongs the work process, tempting us to seek a delusive magical ingredient. Then we trick ourselves to wait for the right time. To stay patient. To perfect everything before the world sees it.

But the truth is, what we’re doing is hiding, avoiding criticisms, and bypassing failure. We hide because we doubt our creations, because we compare, because we feel like it’s not the best — that there is more we can do.

As Seth Godin said, “Fear is the dream killer, the silent voice that pushes us to lose our passion in a vain attempt to seek safety.”

Renowned author Steven Pressfield explained in his timeless book The War of Art about a force that acts against our creativity. He coined this force, “Resistance.” In his words:

“Resistance is experienced as fear; the degree of fear equates to the strength of Resistance. Therefore the more fear we feel about a specific enterprise, the more certain we can be that that enterprise is important to us and to the growth of our soul. That’s why we feel so much Resistance. If it meant nothing to us, there’d be no Resistance.”

Our creations. Our arts. Our masterpieces — they are not just things. They are extensions of our existence. They are who we are.

That’s why we experience fear along the process. We doubt, and sometimes, give up. Nobody wants embarrassment.

And besides fear of embarrassment, here comes another: the what ifs.

What if it won’t work out? What if they won’t like it? What if it’s awful? What if?

It’s not surprising that we think this way. Our “what ifs” are a normal response because we are social beings — we seek validation from others.

But even though it’s reasonable, we should be aware that sometimes it’s already the what ifs taking control — feeding our fears, preventing us from showing our creations.

Paul Jun wrote in his article, The Importance of Finishing What You Start, about the greatest hindrance when finishing what we started.

“The greatest obstacle known to finishing what you start is ultimately you—all your fears, anxieties, and doubts. Some of this hesitation is warranted because you want to ensure that all your ducks are in a row, but there comes a breaking point where all of your reviewing and polishing is merely an illusion for hiding. The longer you delay, the longer it’ll take for you to learn something meaningful that helps you and your project move forward.”

Of course we want our output remarkable, not generic. And useful, not a waste. But often we forget to set a boundary between polishing and shipping. We forget that what we are making is art.

If we’ve already polished it many times, yet still feel not good enough, then that’s a sign — it’s not we at work anymore. It’s our fear whispering to perfect everything.

Jeff Goins echoed a similar perspective,

“This endless striving for “perfect” isn’t getting us anywhere; it’s only making us miserable. Moreover, this habit is unhealthy and can actually lead to serious mental anxiety.”

Sure, some professions need perfection. Brain surgeries, transplants, and other medical-related attempts must be executed flawlessly. Even in food manufacturing or air traffic control (there’s a lot, I guess).

But for visual artists, writers, designers, musicians, innovators, or anyone creating something new, a desire for perfection could only keep their obras unknown, hidden behind the curtains.

If you want to move forward, stop that relentless tweaking. If you want to actualize your dreams and spark a change, stop overthinking. Pour your best, then ship. If you fail, do it again. Do it better.

Ship, learn, improve, and move on. As Steve Jobs said, “Real artists ship.”

I’m a writer who once dreamed of telling stories, sharing ideas, and making a difference. I may not be good enough, but I’ll not wait for another year again. I’ll start today and make shipping a new habit.

What about you? When are you going to ship?