You Must Ship

You Must Ship
*Photo credit: JDNX

“Real artists ship.”
—Steve Jobs

Anyone who seeks to do work that matters will struggle at some point with this concept of shipping — it’s inevitable.

You will come to the point where the work is ready to be released and your art is all done.

And then… you will hesitate.

You may pause to check a few things or do one final proofread. You may stop and wait for no reason.

You may say you’re just “ironing out the last details,” but make no mistake…

You’re stalling

Which is fine. If this were the beginning stages of the project, when you have all the time in the world to do your diligence. But you don’t.

This is the end. You’ve done all you can. It’s time to let go and move on.

Dragging your feet isn’t doing anything for you. In fact, it’s only training you to wait, conditioning you to endlessly tweak until the work becomes irrelevant.

So let’s call this what it is: FEAR. Fear of starting. Fear of doing what must be done. Fear of facing the inevitable.

You were not put on this earth to make perfect things. You were made to create change. To do something remarkable with your skills.

And how can you do that, if you’re constantly trying to make your work “just a little better” before releasing it to the world?

Remember: Art is never finished; it’s only abandoned. Your work will never feel complete. But that doesn’t mean you don’t need to let it go.

It’s time…

In fact, it’s long overdue.

Time to give up your obsession with perfection and do what you were made to do: Create. Time to put your work in front of the people it was intended to impact.

This will not be easy. Everything inside of you will want to wait, to procrastinate. But that is exactly what you must not do. We don’t have time for another delay. We are desperate for your art; give it to us, please.

If you feel your heart start to race, if you get a little  anxious when you think about this, you know you’re on the right track.

This is an act of faith

When you ship, you’re trusting something amazing will happen. And to be honest, it’s a bit of a crap shoot.

Because sometimes, we fail. We fall short of the goal and and land on our faces. Which is fine, because those things cause us to grow.

The one thing you and I cannot do anymore is wait. We must ship. Why? Because the world can’t be changed by what it doesn’t see.

You must give up on perfectionism and embrace “good enough.” You must let go of what you’re afraid of and fall in love with the work. We need more than your good ideas and clever strategies. We need your gumption and courage.

And you need to do something, too: Stop dreaming and start doing. Make something that maters.

You need to ship.

What’s one project you’re delaying shipping? Why? Share in the comments.

67 thoughts on “You Must Ship

  1. “You must give up on perfectionism and fall in love with “good enough.”’

    This is the hardest thing in the world for me… but you’re right, we gotta ship!

    1. Yeah, it’s tough. You have to ask yourself, “Is it better that I get this to 100% complete and risk the possibility of no one ever seeing it, or will 80% get the job done?” It’s not always the case that you want to go for 80, but it’s worth asking the question.

  2. ‘You must give up on perfectionism and fall in love with “good enough.”’
    This is so counterintuitive sometimes, isn’t it?  I have been saying this very same thing to myself lately about creative endeavour:  “In this case, Susie, near enough IS good enough.” And when I do say that, every single time, I can feel the energy rising, ya know?  🙂

  3. Omgosh, this is the kick in the rear I needed. Thanks, Jeff. Sometimes it seems my whole life has been on hold. I’ve let fear and all manner of emotion keep me in stall mode. I’m gonna take your advice and let the perfectionism go…let the fear go, too. It’s time. Oh, wow, it’s time. 

  4. I love the shipping concept, yet see benefit in “pursuing” perfectionism, which is to say pursuing quality and a standard that is higher than most. I’m reminded of steve jobs, who was quite successful in his other-worldly pursuit of perfectionism. Great post!

    1. Agreed. It’s a weird tension. But at the end of the day, if you don’t ship, it doesn’t matter. Jobs included. In fact, Steve is credited for this fantastic quote: “Real artists ship.”

      1. That’s right. I also think shipping is part of the process of pursuing perfection. There’s real value in shipping early, allowing refinements and such. I have a post planned on this..

  5. You’re quite right – I had seven pieces I planned to submit to the Arden, a student publication here at my university. I waited, and waited, and waited, up until the very last moment before they were due, pouring over the texts and making sure every detail I could find was right. 

    When it came time to submit them, I still didn’t feel ready, but I did it anyway. And you know what? Afterwards, there was a sense of relief – I had done it. I’d actually submitted something. 

    Granted, I have to wait until February to hear the results, but at least I tried! Thanks, Jeff, for this reminder to not hold on to something too tightly. 

  6. Jeff, thanks for encouragement. I just started submitting guests posts (I have my first coming out next week!) and it freaks me out to finally submit that post. I have to remind myself that my identity and value is not in what I write and what I do. Thus I keep pressing send and ship it out to the waves and leave the results to God.

  7. Quite recently I had someone comment that a story I had written was “flawlessly executed” and yet when I read the published piece I found several imperfections. Sometimes what looks imperfect to us looks just fine to others. 

    1. That’s exactly what I was going to say. Almost everything I do, that other people find outstanding, I critique to the point of disgust. I never think it’s good enough, yet, my readers are all over it.

      It’s crazy how that works. But the only solution is to quit being scared and ship. I agree with this article 100%.

  8. “Art is never finished. It’s abandoned.”

    Timely word, Jeff. I got an editorial review a few days before Christmas and put the manuscript on hold. I could make some more revisions (and have today) but, bottom line, the novel’s ready to go to the next step in the publishing process.

    I remember a friend talking about his house-building-construction-working brother who talked about knowing when the work was “good enough.” He wanted his project to be well-crafted but he also needed it to be profitable. He didn’t seek perfection. He sought “good enough”–which didn’t mean cheap or crappy, just well done.

  9. Fear, anxiety, perfectionist…creating stuff is hard. Shipping may be harder. Can’t we just talk about our ideas and listen to jazz music in a cool hangout somewhere?

    Actually, failing to steward an idea to launch leaves me more miserable than shipping an imperfect solution.

    Thanks again Jeff. Great bit of inspiration in this post.


  10. This is exactly why I’m just starting to attempt, at almost 34, the same dreams I had as a teenager. I love this part: 

    “You were not put on this earth to create perfect things. You were made to make change, to do something remarkable with your gifts and talents.” 

    Thank you for writing this.

  11. I am currently stuck in that figuring-out phase  – exactly how do I publish my ebook?

    It’s ready to go but there’s tonnes of information/options to scour through.  

    So yeah, I need to  ship..after I figure out how 🙂 🙂

    Awesome insight and reminder.

  12. I so needed to hear this. Thank you. I have a number of ebooks that I have parked indefinitely, trying to perfect them before I release them. But I will follow your advice and just ship them. Thanks.

  13. Great post! It’s truly a wake up call for me. I realise I am where I was a year ago. I have progressed maybe just an inch or two, but generally, I have not step forward. That’s for the nudge. It’s time to ship!

  14. Great post. I really, really needed this kick in the pants. Sometimes it’s something as simple as just letting people know that you write a blog–you have to remember your work doesn’t exist to sit there in silence; it exists because it’s art, and art doesn’t exist in a vacuum. (I just discovered yr blog & I’m loving it).

  15. I’ve been working through your online blogging class and am so glad to have  found your community!  So comforting to read the others posts to remind me that I’m not alone in this process.
    thanks for the great words of advice!

  16. Guilty! (That’s me, slowly raising my hand.) I think the one project for me has to be making changes to my blog content. Thanks to your course, I’m beginning to see the need for better focus and how I can “ship.”

  17. Too many projects. I think at the forefront IS my art..The painting I have so long held off is in a persistent state of readiness, the blank canvases are all laid out before me, the brushes are clean, and the paint is ready….but the ship is not sailing off!

  18. We all want our work to be earth shattering, but as the great philosopher said ” the cards ain’t worth a damn unless you lay them down.”

  19. Agreed. Especially if you are a perfectionist, you have to define a definite due date to ship. If the change of 80% quality to 81% quality takes another 2 weeks of pondering, then it’s a lot better to ship it out. Based on the feedback, there are always more room to improve later on compared to only have your own view of the product as the base of change.

  20. Jeff, I am relatively new to your blog… this post was a great read and a resonant one too. It provided a welcome ponder on a long bus ride. Thanks and keep up the good work! Jem (writing – among other places – at, )

  21. I just ‘abandoned’ a story for the first time and on it’s way into the world.  It was really really difficult, a bit like watching your first child walk alone into that school classroom for the first time. But if you don’t let it go, it will never fulfill it’s potential.  I shed a few tears over both.

  22. I so needed to read this today! I’m a little afraid of starting full-throttle into this next novel because I’m afraid I can’t write another one as good as the last one. (((anyone???))) Thanks so much for your wisdom and encouragement. I’m shippin’ out now!

  23. Hosted a conversation on writing last night and among other things that i mentioned I quoted liberally from this post. loved it. Afterwards, two young writers said that your words were their favorite take-aways. 

    Was asked later for the whole quote, so posted you on FB: ‎”Real artists ship.” -Steve JobsThe world can’t be changed by what it doesn’t see. Remember: Art is never finished. It’s only abandoned.Time to put your work in front of the people it was meant to impact.You need to ship. -thanks jeff goinsGratefully, Lesa 

  24. …as someone who’s spent a significant part of teenager-hood in various fandoms, I found myself going ‘Ship? Who are we shipping? What does romance have to do with anything?’ for a few puzzled minutes.
    Regardless, a very good post.

  25. A friend just shared this with me at a particularly necessary moment, and I have to say, I’m quite rejuvenated. Perfectionism has stopped me from pursuing most every single thing I’ve desired to do. It’s reassuring to be reminded that perfection isn’t the goal because it can’t be achieved, but your lines about not having time for another delay, and the world not being able to be changed by what it hasn’t seen, strike home to me at this time more than anything. Thanks for this encouragement, from one writer to another.

  26. I am delaying shipping my Harry Potter fanfiction. It never seems good enough – and the last three versions flopped as all the bad reviews stated – so I’m in the “If it’s not perfect – and I mean down to every little tiny piece of grammar – then why publish it if it is going to be bad? Why bother if I’m just going to fail. Perfection – or NOTHING.”

  27. This is all fault, deploringly bad, untenable metaphor. Real artists don’t have to “ship,” only merchants do. This is why consumerist America is full of pseudo artists to the brim. Everyone has different reasons for going into writing. I don’t know why bad writers want to write in the first place. But great writers like Kafka never wanted just to ship. Go read his diaries. His only existence was to be a midwife to a story that could stand the test of time.

  28. I ship Logan Paul with Sonic the Hedgehog. Am I a real artist now?
    …wait, that’s not the kind of shipping we’re talking about? What’s that – you never actually properly defined the word, and instead wrote an incredibly vague article?
    Oh. Okay cool.

Comments are closed.