Aiming for total perfection can prevent me from actually sharing what I've written.
Once I spent two hours meticulously honing a three-paragraph, end-of-year fundraising email for my non-profit. I did it because I KNOW IN MY SOUL that one single sentence, one single turn of phrase, ONE. SINGLE. WORD. can clinch a person's $10,000 donation or drive them away forever. I know it in my soul, but I think my soul is wrong on this one. By the way, that email performed about the same as any other fundraising email I've ever sent. So...time well spent?
To say that I tend toward perfectionism would be accurate, but I'm coming to this realization: You can always build on a foundation to improve on over time, but if you don't lay the foundation to begin with then you have nothing to build on.
I'm thinking about this because lately I can't seem to get away from the theme of "shipping it."
The term "ship it" as I'm using it has been around since at least 2012, according to an Urban Dictionary definition I just saw. It originally referred to the act of publishing software as-is, without fiddling around with it any further. These days, I've been hearing it more and more in the context of creatives: writers, podcasters, artists. In the pursuit of excellence, you could whittle away so much time adjusting tiny details on your project that you cross over into pursuing perfection. Once that happens, it becomes harder than ever to actually complete it, let alone share it with the world.
Art can't do have any impact until you publish it.
The wisdom I'm hearing would say: Instead of sitting on it, make it excellent the best way you know how in this moment and trust that your capacity for excellence will expand over time. Then simply ship it.
I have pursued perfection as a shield. If I do everything perfectly, if I think of every possible contingency, if I work and work and work so that everything I make is above reproach, then no one can find fault with me and what I've made. That is, of course, a lie. If you do anything worth doing, someone is going to find fault - if not with the what you've produced, then with your entire existence. What a thing I've allowed to hold me back.
Shipping takes courage, but you and I are stronger than we think.
With each passing day that I don't "ship" anything, this theme presses into me more urgently. I can approve of and share a piece of writing even if I haven't agonized over every single word. I can begin to lay my foundation and trust that I will build on it.
Today, I'm shipping it.