The Creatives Dilemma

Apr 2016


“We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.”

– Kurt Vonnegut


“I shall never be ashamed of citing a bad author if the line is good.”

– Seneca


Creative people have this tendency not to finish things they start. Many times I’ve started a project then had a new idea midway and started a new one. Passively, I’m always working on and thinking about a handful of projects that seem interesting.

The excitement for new projects usually follows a surge function where you’re really motivated at the beginning but that drops off steeply as work has to be done and you start working on it.

So creative people are constantly having new ideas, which they then pursue, leaving the old ones in stagnation. That’s why creative people seem to constantly be working on new things, and also never finishing anything they start.

Writers who write books with no readers. Programmers who write apps with no users. Artists who never publish or put their work on show. Why? Because they started something new before they shipped.

But conversely, the longest projects I’ve been working on are also the best ones. The time investment in it has compounded and now it’s doing better than it ever has. I think a good rule is about 3 years.

If you spend 3 years working on something, you would expect the value to materialise. If you start something new inside 3 years, as creative people usually do, then frequently nothing happens. You get stuck in a cycle of always doing new things and never finishing anything you start.

The only fix. Ship.

Real artists ship. Real writers publish. Real programmers build.