The [[Dirty]] Art of Getting (some) Stuff Done

I respect anyone who gets anything done. Any creative or organisational endeavour. Ever.

Getting stuff done is HARD.

All star, record breaking test pilot Chuck Yeager once commented that "If you can walk away from a landing, it's a good landing. If you use the airplane the next day, it's an outstanding landing." Similarly I feel that if you can start and finish a thing, that's impressive. If you can start and finish a thing and it also happens to be any good - well - that's really impressive*.

Anyway here are some thoughts I have on the art of getting stuff done.

One - Getting Stuff Done Means Getting Dirty

The easiest way not to make any mistakes, not to piss anyone off, not to fall short or ever let anyone down is to sit quietly and do nothing. Doing nothing is safe. It's easy.

By doing things - creating, organising, building, pushing forward - we create motion and through that motion we create friction. Let's take Benioff and Weiss. They ain't too popular on these Internet parts no more. Ruined Game of Thrones or so I heard. It's easy to criticise them for the last season of GoT but can anyone reading this really imagine the competing pressures, difficulties and plain logistical challenges of running that show, based on those books, all whilst maintaining a semblance of familial and friendship connections? I couldn't do it. They stepped up. They got dirty.

When you do something creative or organisational you will end up making choices others disagree with. You will take risks and sometimes they won't pay off. Sometimes things will crash around you. Sometimes you'll fail. We're all playing a numbers game, just trying to have more good days than bad. The easiest way to avoid a bad day? Do nothing. The hardest way to have a good day? Do nothing.

What I'm grasping at is this - if you want to do a thing, prepare to make yourself vulnerable. There's no other way.

Two - Getting Stuff Done Is A Messy Process

We tend to talk in terms of actions: "Hey, I wrote a book / did an art / organised a conference / illustrated a comic". Each verb in those sentences suggests a single action. But the verbs lie. <Gollum>They are dirty, filthy liars</Gollum>. Behind each simple verb (wrote/did/organised/illustrated) lurks weeks and months of other verbs, other actions, compromises, discussions, failures, successes and perseverings.

The end product of every creative endeavour is, I guarantee, manifestly different to the initial aim or idea. The very actions involved in bringing something to life warp and change the object being created. 

If you have the time (and inclination) I'd recommend checking out the Wizard and the Bruiser podcast. They focus mainly on geek culture and each week they examine the background and impact of different books, films, comics, games and the like. It's very, very telling. Listen to a few episodes and a theme emerges - no idea ever survives the creative process unscarred. To make anything means balancing hugely conflicting forces. To be creative means accepting this. Revelling in it. Channeling it, even. Don't believe me? Check out the episode on Ghostbusters. Or the brilliant episode on Tetris. You'll see.

Three - Not Many People Get Stuff Done

You did a thing? Well done you! Did you start it and then see it through? You're already a winner. There are so few people who managed what you did. Give yourself a round of applause. At the very least you're Clayton Kenty.

Who's Clayton Kenty you ask? Let's go back to Berlin on August 16th 2009. Usain Bolt smashed his own record to finish the 100m final in 9.58 seconds. All eyes on him. Yet the day before Clayton Kenty had competed in and finished last in the 12th heat of the 100m sprint. He was the slowest competitor to run the 100m, finishing in a respectable 12.29s. No medal for him. No front page headlines. Just a plane ticket home.

But... Clayton Kenty still ran 12.29s in a 100m World Championship race. Just to get into that race is an achievement beyond the capacity of 99.9% of the population. I hope he was proud. He deserves to be.

So, you did a thing? Well done you. You deserve it.


* At this point it would be fair to acknowledge that my own novel is idling at around 50k and so maybe I don't have much authority to speak on such matters. However, in my defence my day job is spent getting things done and I'm pretty good at that (modesty!) so maybe I'm not such a hypocritical wunder-cretin? Maybe.

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