Like most of you, I am an idea person. What this means, essentially, is that I have notebooks upon notebooks in my drawers and files upon files on my computer that are filled with ideas for books, characters, articles, essays, even queries. Some of them are just one-sentence ideas, some of them are thorough outlines that I've spent hours, sometimes days, on. If I were to add up all the time I've spent on these half-baked ideas, I suspect we'd be talking months, not weeks, of work that's unfinished and sitting in files that aren't going anywhere.
That, if you think about it, is a real shame. Because I came up with an idea, worked on it for however long, and never held its hand and helped it cross the finish line. It may be because I lost confidence in it, or more simply, it's because I found something newer and shinier to occupy myself with and my rabbit brain hopped on over to something more interesting and never returned. This means I wasted time, I'm sitting on money that could be made if I finished these pieces, and I've created the habit of producing work and taking it to a certain point but not completing it and sending it out.
"Real artists ship," said Steve Jobs, who led by example. What he meant was that at some point you have to stop tweaking, stop obsessing, stop revising, and just finish it. Then you have to pack it up, add the frills and fancies, and let it go. You have to let it go. You have to make a commitment to finishing everything you create and then you have to send it out into the world.
This finishing, that's where I stumble, and I suspect you do, too. Because it's easier to see the genius of an idea that's still in your head and much harder to actually put it on paper and continue to find that genius. Most of us are disappointed by the stories we produce because they were so much better in our head and when that gap between the vision and the reality doesn't always close, we hesitate. We don't finish. We don't ship.
I read this quote somewhere a while ago and it stuck with me: "Productivity is not getting stuff done. It is getting the right stuff done."
It's not about how many blog posts you can write or how much you can tweet or how many relationships with editors you can build, though all of those things are important. What matters most, is how many words you can write, how many projects you can finish, how quickly and how often you can ship. How are you going to use those relationships? What is the purpose of the blog posts? Is tweeting taking you away from your goal of shipping?
So here's my challenge to you today: Take a project, any project, that's in a half-state of completion and finish it this week. Ship it. Because creating is only one part of being a writer. Taking the risk to send it out into the world is the true test.
Are you ready to make that commitment? Are you ready to ship something today?