In 1974, J.D. Salinger told the New York Times “There is a marvelous peace in not publishing … I like to write. I love to write. But I write just for myself and my own pleasure.”
I’m no great novelist but I know what he means. Publishing is hard. When you publish, ship, release, or do whatever it is that you’re doing to show your work, you feel vulnerable. What if no one pays attention? What if no one likes it?
It’s a tension between objectives. On one side, you want to make something that is useful. One the other side, you want to make something so perfect, so pristine, that it leads people to admire you.
To make something useful, you often start with something that is less so and improve it with feedback from the actual users. Think software. Alphas, Betas, Version 2.0. I sincerely hope to do that here.
To make something perfect, you steadily hone your work to a mirror finish and release it to the world. The thing is done. Now the world reacts. Think of album releases, fine art, the next season of Game of Thrones.
Every creator loves the idea of releasing something perfect because, well, we love the idea of being admired. It’s validation. But for most of us, it’s also a trap. We’re not fine artists. We’re not masters of our craft. Not yet anyway. We need to improve first. We need to grow. With a few alphas, a few betas, a version 2.0, 3.0, and maybe even a 4.0, we can get there.
I’m publishing this blog here and now after years of putting it off. Yes, years. Why? Because I was nervous, sure. But I was also delusional. Since 2014, I put it off because I felt like I had to make it perfect. I needed to go right past the iterations, the rough drafts, the choppy format, and deliver a masterwork. To do otherwise felt like too much work.
I feel like I have to apologize because this site doesn’t truly reflect my vision yet. I have so many ideas but they’re just not realized. Not yet. And maybe they shouldn’t be. That’s why you start now. You start now to think of what you do next. One step, then another. Steps that take you forward with more product, more posts, more content.
As Reid Hoffman said, “If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.”
He’s right. Not because you should actually, literally be embarrassed at the time of release. But because you shouldn’t be too perfectly confident. You should have questions, niggling thoughts. Some of which will be completely validated when your users or customers notice the same thing. That’s where the learning happens. That’s the path to 2.0.
But some of your niggling thoughts will be completely ignored. Because no one else cared. To respond to the things that people did notice, instead of tinkering constantly with your personal hang-ups, is to be as generous as you should be. And when you share something, when you publish, generosity is the highest virtue to hold. Don’t look to be admirable. Look to be useful.