10.21.2011

The Secret Of Making Things Happen

I want to give you the one secret I have. It's actually the only secret I've got. And I'm going to share it with you. It's the secret of making things happen.

The reason I want to give it to you: recently, people have commented on how things are going for me, and how happy they are that things are going well. It means a lot to hear this from you guys. 

And as always, the corollary to those comments is the sentiment that sounds somewhat like "I wish I could make things like that happen in my life." This is always the corollary to well-wishing, and has been true every time I release a new book or when I started working for Fark.com or get a new journalism gig or show for Art of Akira or when I joined Studio Revolver or any other wonderful thing that's happened to me.

Those things happen because of the work I have done and the record I've built for myself. That part isn't the secret. That part everyone knows: the road to opportunity is paved with effort. The part most people wish could happen is the bit where they get to do the job they want to do for an organization they admire, or go on a trip they've always wanted to take, or speak to the public about topics they love, or publish a book with stories they like to write. 

The secret to making those things happen -- the only one I have in my life and the one I'm sharing with you right now is this:

Just fucking do it. 

It's a shitty secret, because you already know it. But for some reason, you still find a way to convince yourself you don't know how or you can't. So the secret is to just GO. No one wishes for the experience of writing, they wish for the finished book. They don't wish for the learning of syntax and user experience concepts, they wish for the prestige of working for a huge website. 

You want to talk to people about anime or comics? Or talk about the biological impacts of television on children? Or talk about animal welfare? Start. Go. YouTube.com is free to use. Cameras are cheap. Chances are, your laptop or computer already has one. Record your talks. Put them on YouTube. Share them with your friends. If you get good feedback, share them with a website or two that covers your topic (don't spam or annoy though). 

You want to write a book? Come on... That one's easy. Open your word processor. Start typing. 

Want to be a reporter for a larger organization? Blog. It's free at Blogger.com, Tumblr.com, or any number of other sites that will host your blog. 

"But I don't know how..."

Stop right there. That's not going to get you where you want to be. If you want to make it to San Francisco and you live in Atlanta, the first step is to point west, the second is to get moving. 

Sure, you can book a flight or a bus or a train ride. But keeping with the metaphor, you'll likely say "But I don't have enough money to buy a ticket..."

Point west. Start walking. If you REALLY want to get there, you'll do that before you do anything else.

The hard, honest truth most everyone doesn't want to tell you: the words "I can't" are fucking bullshit. There are olympic class sprinters with no legs, people. The drummer for Def Leppard has only one arm. ONE ARMED DRUMMERS AND NO LEGGED SPRINTERS CAN. You can do anything you want. You just don't WANT to. 

Start working. Figure the rest out along the way. When you open your word processor and start writing your book, you'll get to a point where you wonder how chapters should be formed and the book should be organized. You'll go research that, either by reading other books and mimicking their style, or by reading how-to materials. But you'll figure it out on the way.

Another secret, but it's not my secret, it's a universal secret: no one who does anything creative knows what the hell they're doing. No one. They just start. They copy what they like. They start finding their own path. And as time goes on, they don't learn the one way HOW TO, they learn many, many ways HOW NOT TO. And they let that experience guide them the in the right direction. But they still run into walls and get bruises and fall down a lot.

Those who are unafraid to take the bumps and feel the pain of forging their own path are the ones who make it to the finish line.

Trying to map out the route to your goal is honorable and noble. It's also yet another thing that feels like work, but isn't work. Dave Sim, the godfather of self publishing in comics and author of a 300 issue, 6400 page story said it best: writing notes, organizing ideas, penciling doodles and concepts feels like work, but the work doesn't begin until you start penciling, inking and lettering panel 1 on page 1. 

You WILL end up with a lot of trash. You will delete entire chapters or an entire book. You will scrap your videos. You will end up killing your own articles on your blog, because you feel they go nowhere. But you MUST realize that that's part of the process. 

If you can't point west and start walking; if you're obsessed with process instead of delivery, you're like everyone else: you want the reward without taking the journey and battling the dragon. You want it handed to you on a silver platter. 

Even Albert Einstein pointed out that, at a certain point, reading and researching too much is damaging to the creative process and ends up stalling the creator out:

Reading, after a certain age, diverts the mind too much from its creative pursuits. Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking.
~ Albert Einstein

As I said on my Notes to Self site: I attribute all of my success to luck. The harder I work, the luckier I get. 

Go. Do. Don't sit there and wish. Wishing gets you nothing. It occupies the mind and feels like work. Making notes? It streamlines the process of what you want to do, but until you DO it, you're not working. You're streamlining. Research? Reading? Asking around? All of that stuff, while VERY helpful, doesn't write your book or get you speaking dates or publish your article or gets you that development / creative gig at a big website. It's necessary to improve quality and do things well... But before you do things well, you should just do things.

Another Dave Sim quote: Get good, then get fast, then get good and fast. But what Dave left out: Before you get good or fast, you have to start. 

So start.