Derek Sivers

Programmer, writer, entrepreneur, avid student of life. I make useful things, and share what I learn.

Articles → Early drafts of great work are encouraging

I get so encouraged looking at early drafts of great work, thinking, “I can do that!”

In this clip from “Le mystère Picasso”, you watch Picasso start with a simple scribble of a goat, then flesh it out. Not only adding textures, but changing his mind and removing things as well.

After making the brilliant movie Sin City, director Robert Rodriguez was cool enough to include the entire film as it was really shot on a green screen, sped up and included on the DVD.

One of my favorite essayists, Paul Graham, lets you watch as he types one of his essays. It’s incredibly encouraging (and funny!) to see how many times he’ll re-write a sentence, and discover what he’s saying as he goes.

The Beatles’ “Anthology” had some great outtakes and early versions of songs I thought of as untouchably perfect. Like seeing stars without makeup, you realize how much of the magic is in the finishing touches.’s wonderful Wayback Machine lets us see:

I meet so many potential entrepreneurs who think they have to spend millions and months in development before launching. (And therefore, they often never launch.)

For the first nine months of CD Baby, every page was hand-coded HTML and the site did nothing but email the order details to me. I had to copy-and-paste all the info from each email into four places: a mailing label, a thank-you email, a vendor-alert email, and a Filemaker database. It was as lo-fi as can be, but it was enough to get started, and it was profitable.

So I’m writing this in hopes that we get more of these “Version 0.1” stories out there. Encouraging potential entrepreneurs, songwriters, artists, and inventors to compare themselves to the early drafts, not the final polished perfection.

If you’ve got a story from inside a company (“In the old days of __[big company]__ we used to __[something inspiringly primitive]__.”)...

If you can share a recording of an early demo of a song that went on to become a big hit record....

... or anything else like that, please email me at [email protected] or leave a reply here, below. I’ll share the responses in a future article.