Unpublished and unfinished works
Issue 83: It’s okay to leave work in the cutting room floor
When Tyka Nelson's brother, a musician, passed away in 2016, she inherited a significant portion of his estate that included thousands of unpublished songs—thousands. Nelson recalls her late brother telling her, “I won’t get off this planet until he gets every single solitary thing he worked so hard for and preserved for all of the world to hear.” That year, Welcome 2 America, an album her brother, whose name was Prince, was finally released to the world.
There is a stigma with unpublished or unfinished work as if everything has to be shipped. I believe what you should publish are the things worth publishing and it takes time to get it right. Digital work is incredible. The time it takes to take an idea and publish it to the world is lightning fast. There is a lot of admiration for the speed. What gets lost at times is thought, iteration, and refinement of such ideas. In the end, most of your work is going to remain as a draft and unpublished. In this issue, we’ll cover why it’s okay to have unpublished and unfinished works.
We live in a world where there are pressures to ship and build everything in public. To be clear, I am a huge advocate of building in public because of the value it delivers for people. My point is you don’t have to for everything in the same manner that you should only ship things that matter. In this issue, let’s talk about the benefits of unfinished work and how it can benefit what you do finish.
Some stuff should remain unpublished
Last week, I discovered 750words.com by someone on Twitter. It’s a website created by Buster Benson and Kellianne that encourages people to write every day. It’s based on the idea of morning pages by Julia Cameron in her book “The artist’s way.” As the name suggests, it’s a practice of writing every morning. 750 words are roughly three pages and the challenge is to write—simply write. The words and sentences I craft during morning pages are god-awful as the final draft of The Room, and that’s okay. Throughout the process, I find thoughts that inspire topics that I want to draft and eventually publish (this topic being one of them!).
Writing with the intention of it remaining unpublished can be therapeutic for me. It’s similar to how someone might create an alt account on Twitter and leave it private. Sometimes people need a space to express it and send it off in the either. If I were, to be honest, send it off in the either. If I were, to be honest, more people could benefit from this.
Artist Robert Crumb is a cartoonist who may be known for crude comics. In an interview with The Boston Globe, Crumb discusses the role of his artistic expression to combat his depression. I resonate with this when it comes to writing, a creative method that lets me unpack thoughts I’ve been struggling with. Some of the thoughts are things I’d never want to publish. It’s a ritual to cleanse and focus on my best self. Writing recently has been therapeutic for me to cope with the loss of my cat.
Creativity is a method and process
I share the same philosophy as Edward de Bono about creativity. I am a believer that everyone can be creative and it’s not a god-given talent. Though creativity comes more naturally for some than others, it’s a skill that can be nurtured and fostered. In that case, creative projects have a production process to them. Staging a lot of work that remains unpublished helps move things along. In order to create a high volume, you want to make sure there are ideas moving along.
My creative process is Idea, Draft, WIP, Published. I have stacks of dot grid notebooks of ideas that never made it past the idea phase, and that’s okay. I believe it’s important to put the energy into something that’s worthwhile publishing and shipping. I reject the idea that creativity has to be sitting around until you find that Newton’s Apple moment that sparks brilliance. You have to put the work in to keep it going. There are some days and weeks I feel completely unmotivated to do something creative, but I force myself to attempt to. The creative process is a production line. Keep it running as you find inspiration.
Curating to ship the best work
I think there is pressure today about output over outcomes. It’s a world where there is pressure to ship your side projects and build in public. The benefit of a side project is honestly that you don’t need to finish it, that’s why it’s a side project. Ship your work projects and do whatever you’d like with your side projects. I want to be clear that I’m a big believer in building in public and sharing value. However, it can be a false premise for people to feel pressure to publish everything. Embrace the beauty of unpublished drafts on your physical and digital desktop.
The majority of writing is editing. It’s the same with design—many versions that never see the light of day. Those unpublished versions often lead to the final output through what to do (and what not to do). In the film industry, there is a term dedicated to this—the cutting room floor. It describes the editing process in which scenes or footage is not used in the final output. A big part of curation is editing, and by doing this, you’ll likely publish your best work.
It’s okay to leave things unpublished and unfinished
It’s okay to not publish something. Who knows, maybe on a rainy day, you might dust off that unpublished project and do something with it. Embrace unpublished work. I’m spending the week in San Diego and hoping to crank out some drafts. Enjoy the process, and finish the things that are worth finishing.
Tweet of the week
Congrats Olivia on your new role as Director of Product Design!
Get 20% off on Twelve South’s Compass Pro iPad stand
I don’t do any sponsorships for this newsletter but wanted to share a discount code for those interested. Twelvesouth co-founder Andrew Green responded to the tweet about last week’s issue on writing on the iPad Pro. He offered a generous discount for the Compass Pro. Grab one while the code is still good. Thanks for your generosity, Andrew!
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