People always like to quip that “real artists ship,” as a quick one-liner I guess that’s pretty good, but as with everything else… only sorta true. Anybody familiar with creativity has to admit that an end result of any quality usually requires a great deal of quantity in the background. Photographers will take hundreds of pictures in the process of producing tens of photos. Films emerge from hours worth of additional footage thrown in the waste bin. Graphic Designers build copious numbers of mockups to produce a final design.
We developers are in the idea business too and, although I feel wholly unqualified to say this, the good developers are the ones with lots of ideas. In my experience as a mediocre programmer I spend a lot of my time hounded by ideas of my own creation.
I found this great passage in an article by Richard P. Gabriel:
John’s world is a world of ideas, a world in which ideas don’t belong to anyone, and when an idea is wrong, just the idea – not the person – is wrong. A world in which ideas are like young birds, and we catch them and proudly show them to our friends. The bird’s beauty and the hunter’s are distinct.
Some people won’t show you the birds they’ve caught until they are sure, certain, positive that they – the birds, or themselves – are gorgeous, or rare, or remarkable. When your mind can separate yourself from your bird, you will share it sooner, and the beauty of the bird will be sooner enjoyed. And what is a bird but for being enjoyed?
Every creative would love to claim a monopoly on divine inspiration, but since we can never quite manage that we settle for just hiding away all those half-finished, not quite thought-through, potentially embarrassing ideas of ours – and it’s a really nasty habit.
For developers, we have trouble kicking things out of out our
~/Projects folder and sharing them with others because they’re “just not done yet.” Doneness is a dangerous idea – especially for perfectionists. It is always so tempting to keep polishing this or that project until you can really say it is done. Or worse, putting something pretty good to the side and promising to come back to it later to finish it off.
I’ve without a doubt fallen into that trap, granted I’ll make an argument for school getting in the way, but the truth is I’ve been sitting on a whole lot of “not done yet” projects for no great reason at all. Now that I’m nearly out of school, with new-found time on my hands, I’m resolving to drag them out of the closet, give them the once-over and throw them out for others to have – done or not.