Shipped Is Better Than Perfect
I stumbled across a video about South Park on YouTube the other day and whether you like the show or not, the video is fascinating.
It turns out that each episode of South Park is conceived, written, animated and shipped in six days. Six. Days. Holy cow.
The show creators, Matt Stone and Trey Parker, weren’t always this fast, but over time they slowly got their process to three weeks, then two weeks, then six days.
Over time, they’ve organized everything to make this work. This includes hiring people who are good at many things. Other animation studios might have a story boarding department and a motion department, at South Park, the team does it all. And everyone is very, very fast, since the script and audio will likely be coming to them at the very last minute. Everyone knows that the final day’s work might take 12 hours, or 18, or 20, so there are lots of pillows and blankets on site just in case.
During one interview with Trey Parker, he talks about how if he gave himself more time to get things perfect, they’d still be working on Season 6, rather than (at the time) Season 15, and the shows might be 5% funnier. Or even worse, might be 5% less funny. He’s smart enough to know that he can’t give himself the chance to edit out the funny.
The result of this process is that each episode ships with everyone exhausted and Parker feeling like he just shipped the worst episode ever.
The payoff comes in the final scene though, when they are uploading the finished show to Comedy Central in New York and the tech (who is watching the show for the first time) is crying from laughing so hard.
Ship it. Ship it Good.
As someone who routinely hides behind getting it perfect, this is a big reminder that continual revisions don’t always make things better. It’s getting your work out in the world, over and over again, that matters.
If you bake for a living, you know the feeling. Every day has its share of problems. A batch of dough is under mixed, another is over proofed, a rookie is shaping baguettes for the first time, and on and on.
But still, you need to get it baked and out in the world, every day, and try to do it better tomorrow. You might never get that perfect day, but at least you’ll give yourself the chance for some very, very good days.
So keep on shipping. Ship before you’re comfortable. And for sure, ship before it’s perfect. Ship this one so you can make another.
What say you? Where are you hiding, waiting for perfect? What’s your trick to shipping anyway? Let’s talk about it in the comments!