Well it’s Wednesday, and that means it’s time for another blog. Deadlines are funny things. They can drive us to achieve. They can hold us accountable. They can stress the hell out of the prepared and unprepared alike.
In software it’s the age old debate. There are 3 goals for releasing a product. Quality, Features and Time to Market. They say you can have 2 out of 3 at any given time, but you can’t have all 3. What that means is that you can add a lot of features to a release and get it out on time, but then you probably won’t have time to test it all thoroughly, so it will be buggy (industry term for full of bugs (defects (broken things))). You can add a bunch of features and make sure they are all thoroughly tested, but that means you will miss your deadline and not get to market in time for whatever holiday shopping season you had your eye on. Lastly you can Test it thoroughly and make your release deadline, but you had to drop a few features that may have been critical to the market place so your product won’t sell, maybe.
So here it is, another Wednesday and my blog is shipping more or less on time. So I’ll let you decide if I sacrificed quality or features. Did my blog have a lot of typos? Or was it thoroughly spell checked, but the content was useless?
Can you hold art to the same standards that you hold consumer goods? How does art weigh in? Is it appropriate for art to have a deadline?
When was the “Mona Lisa” completed? Did Leonardo da Vinci work on it for a month? an afternoon? or a year?
Turns out he worked on it for 4 years and still didn’t think it was done. 4 years! (citation)
So when is your art enough? When is it ready to ship?
When I have painted in the past, mostly art classes in grade school, I have been frustrated with my work. They were not up to the level of quality that I find pleasing to the eye, but still it is my art and practice makes perfect. But I did stop practicing. If I spend more than a couple hours on a painting it seems like a long project. So to consider painting for 4 years… It’s unfathomable.
While I’m quite certain he didn’t focus his sole attention on the Mona Lisa for 4 years, it’s still astonishing to consider a project of this magnitude. When you wonder at the detail and attention put into the painting, think about how each stroke must have been considered and reconsidered as the brush was manipulated.
I have heard of companies where software releases took 4 years. Usually the release was less of a work of art and more a flying spaghetti monster. And companies that allow that sort of gap in market presence don’t get to stay in business for too long. The world with it’s global ADHD moves on and finds the next shiny object to gawk at and marvel over.
The world seems to be speeding up, faster and faster to a frantic pace of discovery and novelty. We are constantly shifting attention to the next great thing the next big idea without consideration for the impact of our rapid consumption, fatigue and disposal of the last great thing. What is the carbon footprint of an idea?
With all of this in mind I encourage you to set deadlines and allow them to be missed. Release your art and make the world a more diverse place. Find your format, hone your craft, and walk your path. You may have the blessings of a person that can focus on a project for 4 years and still not consider it done. But 500 years later there will still be people marveling at what you did. Or you may find that your art takes 5 minutes and is forgotten in 30 seconds… But you reached out, you sent goals, and you experience your life and your art on your terms. That’s really all was can ask for.