Real Artists Ship

realartistsship1280x800Back in the early 1980s, the Apple Macintosh was behind schedule and the project team was close to burning out when Steve Jobs wrote on a nearby easel “Real Artists Ship.”

Why did he write that and what did he mean?

Well, of course, he wanted the project team to finish (and finish on time too). But at its core is this simple truth: everyone has ideas, but real artists deliver on them or ship them, as he put it.

In other words, ideas are not enough. Working on things or “making progress” is not enough. You have to ship. Put a different way:

If you want to call yourself an artist, you have to finish something and put it out in the world.

Of course, merely shipping something does not in and of itself make you an artist, but failing to finish and share what you create is usually not a path to artistry either.

When I came across this story, I immediately thought of writing. How many of us start on a story and never finish it? Or finish it and then can’t find the courage to share it? I know I’ve been guilty of both.

There’s no such thing as free shipping when it comes to creating

There is no shortage of ideas in the world – everyone has them – but many people falsely believe that the hard work is in generating the idea when in reality, the hard work is in bringing the idea to life.

You can see this belief at work when people worry about others stealing their idea for a novel (after all, the thief would then merely need to write the book), or when people wonder how hard it could possibly be to come up with X (a device, software, etc.) that just does Y (some “simple” thing).

What some don’t realize is that creating and shipping is the hardest part. It’s hard to do the work and put in the hours to convert an idea into something real. Sometimes, it’s even harder to put yourself or something you’ve made out there and subject it to the opinions and criticism of others.

There’s no such thing as free shipping in this context – it must be earned through effort. Shipping requires discipline, dedication, time, perseverance, and stamina in addition to the specialized knowledge and skills needed for the particular task. No matter how much of yourself you invest in making your idea real, the only way the world will learn about what you create – no matter if it’s  good, bad, or indifferent – is if you’re brave enough to call it done and put it out there.

Just ship it!

Last week, I put my money where my mouth is and shipped one of my short stories. I submitted it for publication to a few magazines, knowing that the odds are against me and that it will be hard to find a home for this particular story since it’s longer than most. Still, I figured, nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?

So what about you? Have you shipped anything lately? If so, leave me a comment – I’d love to hear about it!

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