The right time is right now
Done is better than perfect.
It's a mantra oft repeated in journalism, and I've been thinking about it lately.
It’s easy to invent excuses for not doing our work. Our brains are master rationalizers for inertia, incredibly adept at procrastination.
Steven Pressfield lays it out in The War of Art:
There’s a secret that real writers know that wannabe writers don’t, and the secret is this: It’s not the writing part that’s hard. What’s hard is sitting down to write.
We obsess over whether our daily routines or rituals are down pat, whether we’re feeling good enough, while trying to set up conditions for the right mood in which to do our work. A constant search for the optimal.
"I can’t really start my work yet, because…I need a 1080p webcam...I need the perfect productivity setup...I need to tidy my room...I need to get a haircut so I look good in front of the camera...I've not had my coffee yet..."
Optimization traps such as these are easy to fall into. Powerful forces in this world convince us we’re simply not ready or not good enough for the things we want to do. Solutions often (conveniently) involve this button:
"But conditions will never be perfect," my partner said to me recently, a gentle kick in the nuts that reminded me of a far more brutal Steve Jobs-ism:
Real artists ship.
It’s a difficult pill to swallow.
You’re never going to be fully ready.
No amount of preparation will ever be enough.
You will always feel what Ira Glass famously called 'The Gap’:
Every time I read a piece of old writing, no matter how recent, I cringe. The inner monologue goes something like this:
"That sentence is off. You sound so amateurish…That formulation is so lame. Why didn’t you read this out aloud to yourself before hitting publish? I need to proof my copy more next time..."
But if you’re growing at your craft at all, past work will nearly always produce feelings of embarrassment. That's usually a positive sign, because it means you've changed. The only way to close the gap between your work and your taste, Glass says, is to do a large volume of work. That won't happen by waiting for the perfect moment or conditions.
I'm not minimizing the importance of optimization. The right environment, processes, and tools can go a long way in aiding productivity. But these are only lubricants that ease movement by reducing friction. The movement itself is on you to generate.
I wrote this piece under the not-so-ideal conditions of a mild hangover and below average hours of sleep.
Hopefully it's an indication I've realized the right time is right now.