“Art is never finished, only abandoned.” – Leonardo Da Vinci
Waiting? Yes, It’s an easy mistake I see a lot of creative people often make. Actually in itself, waiting isn’t bad but it can easily become stalling.
Most artists think the more the time they spend on a piece, the better it would get. So they refuse to finish. They continue to work on it. Endlessly!
While I believe artists should commit adequate time and resources to creating their works, often times this leads to lingering and lagging and endless tweaking.
Truth is: whether in art or business or any other thing, finished is better than flawless.
1. Perfect doesn’t exist
You might have been thinking that the piece would get better with time. That it would be perfect. You might have even started envisioning it flawless. Well, I’m sorry but you’re far away in dreamland. Let me wake you up. No matter what your views are on perfection. One thing is sure, it doesn’t exist. So why chase a ghost? Finished is your only way to excellence take it.
2. Creation needs expression
Imagine you are that creative piece and your creator endlessly tweaks you. How would you feel? Bitter? Sad? Disgruntled? Well, that’s how all your ‘endlessly tweaked’ pieces are feeling. Truth is art needs expression. Your creations need liberation and the only way to set them free is by finishing them. They are not perfect but that’s okay, they’re not meant to be. Allow your creations to manifest – finish them.
3. Public practice is the best
I once heard the story of a young playwright who once while working on a new play with his master asked, “how he would know this play will do well with the audience?” in reply, the master smiled and said, “you don’t.” “the only way to know is to try it.” he added. Just as you don’t know if a play would resonate with the audience, you don’t know how that your creation would be perceived. The only way to know is by finishing it. Public practice provides you with useful feedback on how to get better.
4. Results are Temporary
As an artist, you need results but that’s not what keeps you going. The process provides you better incentive to create. It’s fun to create. Want to have a lot of fun? Then you must commit to finishing. To striking ideas as done on your to-do list. To enjoying the process. Results come and go, leaving you better and better. How else do you know if you’re improving if you don’t finish? If for nothing else finishing is better than flawless because it rewards you with improving lessons.
5. Finishing Motivates
Do you know the highest number of people who don’t get published? They are the same set of perfectionists who never quite get done. They keep tweaking their plotlines, their argument and climax. Thus, they never get to write the book proposal let alone sign the contract. However, this is the least of their problems as ‘endless tweaking’ drains their motivation and they gradually fall out off track. Demotivated. The only way to stay motivated is to keep finishing. Getting better by improving upon your last attempt is in itself encouraging.
6. Finishing is your victory
In his book, The war of Art, bestselling author Steven Pressfield identified the biggest enemy of creativity. He called it – Resistance. In it he said, “Resistance’s goal is not to wound or disable. Resistance aims to kill.” and “When we fight it, we are in a war to the death.” in order to win the battle against resistance, Pressfield in his book, Do the work, said, “ship it.” and “Nothing is more empowering, because it plants us solidly on Planet Earth and gets us out of our self-devouring, navel-centered fantasies and self-delusions.” Finishing is your victory and for this reason it is better than flawless.
You might be wondering, “how do I break out of the ‘endlessly tweaking’ cycle? What is the way out?
Here’s your answer:
The Art of Shipping
I first heard about the idea of shipping from Seth Godin. In a guest post at Zen Habits, he explains what it means to “ship”:
“Ship as in get it out the door. Ship as in make a difference at work. Ship as in contribute your art and vision and expertise and passion to the project you’re working on.”
Also, In his book, Linchpin, Seth said, “Artists think along the edges of the box, because that’s where things get done. That’s where the audience is, that’s where the means of production are available, and that’s where you can make an impact.”
Shipping is getting it done; producing; making impact.
Shipping is essentially finishing.
This is your way out of the perfectionism trap. Take it today!
Commit to the art of shipping and you’d be all better for it.
Also published on Medium.