True, but Unhelpful Advice: “Real artists ship”, Or “Five days tweaking that kick drum”

True, but Unhelpful Advice: “Real artists ship”, Or “Five days tweaking that kick drum”

Saturday, August 07, 2021

tagged: shipping, strategy

What is stopping us from shipping? Is it time? Is it anxiety?

Photo Credit: Computer History Museum

How do we get things finished?

Steve Jobs famously said: "Real artists ship" He was right. But so what?

He means not just painter-ly artists, or musicians, he is talking to designers and programmers (who, back in 1983, were working at Apple Computer on what would become the first Macintosh).

But if you are stuck or you don't really know how to ship, this statement doesn't help you.

Sometimes the problem is lack of time blocks to get things done. Then tactics around calendar, and shutting off notifications so you can get into "Deep Work" or "Flow."

Maybe it's anxiety stopping you from shipping. That can be hard to overcome and I have good news / bad news for you:

It doesn't go away when you are working on things on the edge and your growing and learning. Great artists talk about this struggle well after they are "successful."

But it may help to know that, in the words of Max Beerbohm:

"No fine work can be done without concentration and self-sacrifice and toil and doubt."

Or a more modern philosopher: JJ Abrams who, after having directed Star Trek (2009), Mission Impossible III, Alias, Lost, and Fringe was selected to direct the first of the Star Wars reboots after Disney acquired them. By all measures, at this point, he is an artist who ships and he has been massively successful.

Yet, here is his anxiety alongside his creativity. In his words, "I was terrified." After shipping the first Star Wars he directed, but before it came out in theatres, he went into a friend's office who "poured two glasses of Jamesons, and said [about the movie] like 'Yeah, I don't know man, I don't know.'"

Jjabrams -interview


A framework that helps us ship

Being in company like this, we may feel better, but this still doesn't help us understand how to break through that anxiety and ship. For tips on how to do that, we can listen to someone who brings empathy to his personal understanding of the artistic pursuit as a musician in two interesting little bands (and he also runs a tech unicorn on the side, Patreon): Jack Conte.

He looks at his experience, The Beatles, Ella Fitzgerald, and even sportsball for clues and wraps it up in a microcosmic personal story to elucidate an emotional and mental framework that works to orient him to "ship."

He calls it "publishing" -the whole video is worth watching (when he talks about "funnels" it seems like he has gone off the rails, he hasn't-he it loops back around):

Jack -Conte -work -to -publish



As I gathered some color for this blog post, Wikipedia pointed me at, not just the entry for J. J. Abrams (where it discusses his accomplishments) but it surfaced another entry: " J. J. Abram's unrealized projects" which has 42 items listed.

Perhaps an equally true, less pithy, and mildly more helpful quote would be:

"Real artists struggle, but then still ship"

Saturday, August 07, 2021, 12:47 PM

tagged: shipping, strategy