Little and often

​“What would I do if I didn’t write?” For me, the answer is obvious: “Something that gives me more immediate feedback.” Let me explain. When I have an idea and drag it kicking and screaming onto the page, it’s hard to gauge whether I have done it justice. If I ignore feedback from my audience, I can only determine its quality in two ways. First, I can compare it to what I wrote in the past. Second, I can lean on my intuitive sense of judgement and taste to help me decide whether what I’ve created is “good”. Unfortunately, neither of these are ironclad and infallible measuring tools.

Which is why, if I didn’t write, I’d do something like draw or make music instead. It’s easier to see if I’ve done a good drawing than it is to determine if I’ve explained an idea well. It’s easier to listen to a piece of music and rate its rhythmic beauty than it is to decide whether I’ve put together a good string of sentences and paragraphs.

I only ask this question because I know that rapid development requires an immediacy of feedback. Think about the early stages of skill acquisition. The thing that happens most is mistakes, and each mistake is like a signpost to a better way of doing things. So, you get better, fast. But only for a little while. Soon, you’ve made the most obvious, basic mistakes, and you need all your ingenuity and determination, first, to make more advanced mistakes, and second, to correlate their cause with their effect.

The idea that immediacy-of-feedback-equals-rapid-development is one of the chief reasons I’m thankful for deciding to ship every day. Sure, it’s difficult to assess the efficacy of my writing and canon on a day-to-day basis, but it’s made a little easier because I do so much of it, so often. The time between conceiving, starting and shipping a piece of work is tiny, which means I have many individual, separate exhibits to help me chart and gauge my progress. If I didn’t blog, and only worked on longform projects like books, my progress would slow to a crawl. Because the cycle through conceive-start-ship would take so long—years—I’d only have one exhibit upon which to judge myself. As opposed to now, where I have over seven hundred pieces of evidence which I can use to assess myself.

I suppose what I’m trying to say is that, if rapid development is your aim, it’s better to ship little and often than a lot, infrequently. The former gives you a rich stream of evidence and data concerning your performance and trajectory. The latter—well, it doesn’t.