an argument against “shipping”

In creativity, inspiration, productivity by Jay Clouse

You’re reading a daily newsletter right now, and inside this daily newsletter I’ve often talked about the value of putting out your signal and shipping new work regularly, even before you think it’s totally ready.

I heard a compelling argument against that recently that I wanted to share.

It came from the A24 podcast and a conversation between Bo Burnham and Jerrod Carmichael where they discuss creating art, especially on the internet.

I’m a big Bo Burnham fan, and he doesn’t do a ton of interviews. Every time he comes out with a special, I watch it. When a podcast interview pops up, I listen to it. When I heard he created a film, I tried to find how I could watch it.

Bo: My basic worry for young people— It’s very, very, very hard I think for young people that are engaged in the internet to take the time to put the work in to make something good and substantial, which if you’re going to make something substantial whether it’s a hour long comedy special, or a pilot, or whatever it is, part of the artistic process is retreating, disappearing, and we talk about this a lot, disappearing, and then coming to the world with a thing. “Look I just spent eight months, a year, or two years on this thing. Here it is.” And right now, for kids trying to break into the business, or whatever. Trying to get attention. The impulse is you have an idea, put it out there. Get your Twitter going.

Jerrod: Yeah. You have a ready outlet.

Bo: Get your stream going.

Jerrod: Each day feels like a day—a missed opportunity.

Bo: Exactly. When like, there’s nothing more— in my opinion, the best PR for you is good work that you spent a while making and I just worry that we’ll have sort of the artistic equivalent of like a 24-hour news cycle. You know what I mean? Where just everything is fresh, and topical, and ages like milk. And I don’t know. We talk about— I know you talk about the value I think of not being present. Disappearing in this world—

Jerrod: Oh, absolutely.

Bo: —of feeling like people are too in our faces all the time. I don’t know. I go crazy at this stuff.

Jerrod: Also, the need to perform should be turned off in any way. Right? Like the need to—You go on stage and you get off stage.

Bo: Yeah, right, right.

Jerrod: And performing, just in the sense, an Instagram picture is a performance of sorts.

Bo: Yeah, yeah. The talk show appearances. All these things.

Jerrod: It’s just, I don’t want to perform a lot. That’s why I can’t. I’m just not on because it’s the need to be—

Bo: Well, it’s like if someone Google’s Jerrod Carmichael. You want the first three things they see to be the things you spent a lot of time on. Your show or your special, not, “Oh, he was throwing a bag of Skittles at someone’s head on some talk show.” Or whatever they do on these things. I don’t even get it. It’s like, “Jerrod Carmichael ate a live bird.” It’s like why do these people want to do this?

The line that really stood out to me was, “the best PR for you is good work that you spent a while making and I just worry that we’ll have sort of the artistic equivalent of like a 24-hour news cycle.”

And what was compelling about his argument is that I’ve seen him live that. And as I described above, I love it.

I’m not entirely sure how to marry the ideas of frequent shipping + getting feedback with disappearing and laboring for months. But, as with most things, I think it’s situational. There is value in both approaches, and you don’t need to be fully in one camp or another.

The podcast I keep teasing has been in the works since late January — we’ve just been putting in time for a few months to make the finished product great.

On the other hand, I’m going to keep putting out these emails every day.

At the end of the day, I want to make good work that people really enjoy — regardless of the process.


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